The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a regulatory body that came up with standards that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities to ensure they get equal access to goods and services. They view inaccessible facilities as a form of discrimination to individuals with disabilities as it poses a challenge that prevents them from accessing what seems easy and convenient for other people. An accessible bathroom is one of the areas where these standards are applied to help the elderly and people with disabilities go about their daily routines without the need for a healthcare assistant. This article looks at different bathroom accessibility standards and reasons why they are important for people with mobility issues.
- Door Clearance Requirements
Doors to accessible bathrooms should have easy-to-grab handles and should open with minimal force using one hand. The door size should be at least 32 inches wide and open at 90 degrees to the inside. All door handles, locks, latches, and other operable parts must have a shape that allows a user to open easily with one hand. This means that it should not require any punching, tight grasping or twisting of the wrist. Doors with a spring hinge or a closer must be adjusted to meet the minimum requirements for opening and closing doors leading to an accessible bathroom.
- Wheelchair Turning Spaces
The recommended floor space for a single wheelchair to rotate freely inside a bathroom is a circular or T-shaped turning space that is 60 inches in diameter. The T-shaped space allows a three-point-turn while a circular space allows a wheelchair user to make a 180-degree or 360 degrees turn. The T-shaped or circular turning spaces may be located under fixtures or accessories as long as the required toe and knee clearance is provided.
- Shower and Bathtub Installations
Transfer shower compartments are the most common type of shower that accommodates people with mobility challenges. They should measure at least 36 inches wide with a folding or fixed L-shaped shower seat that is mounted on a sidewall across from the controls and showerhead. It is also important to position a clear space outside the shower to allow proper wheelchair positioning when transferring to a shower seat. There are many different options when it comes to the designs of an accessible bathtub. Some of the popular varieties include walk-in bathtubs, slide-in style, and bathtubs with mobile seats.
- Grab Bars
The ADA emphasizes on installing grab bars because they prevent falls, and help a user maintain balance or transfer from their wheelchair to a shower seat or a toilet seat. Grab bars are designed in various lengths, styles, and finishes that fit any application. There must be a separation of at least 1 and a half inches between the grab bar and the wall surface to provide enough space for a grip. The grab bars should be installed at a height of 34 to 38 inches above the floor to make it accessible for both seated and standing users.
- Accessible Toilet Requirements
An accessible toilet should allow wheelchair users to transfer onto a toilet seat using different positions and procedures. Grab rails are a basic feature in an accessible bathroom as they provide needed support, balance, and stability for a user transferring from a wheelchair onto the toilet. The space around the toilet should have an unobstructed wheelchair turning circle of at least 1.5 meters in diameter. Flush controls such as levers and other operable parts must meet the current ADA standards for controls, operable parts, as well as reach range requirements. The height of the toilet seat must have a minimum of 17 inches and a maximum of 19 inches above the finish floor.
- Accessible Sinks and Vanity
Sinks for accessible bathrooms should be properly sized with a height of 34 inches above the ground. There should be enough knee clearance underneath the sink to accommodate wheelchair users. Insulating the plumbing fixtures under the sink or countertop ensures the movement of the user is not interrupted. Task lighting provides better illumination on the sink, vanity, countertop and other areas in the bathroom that allows a user to accomplish a specific activity.
The ultimate goal of bathroom accessibility standards is to make the bathroom safe for every user including the elderly and people with mobility challenges. The overall design of bathroom fixtures and accessories should accommodate both standing and seated users. Taking inventory of the capabilities and preferences of the user is very essential as it allows you to customize the space with the needs of the user in mind.