Restrooms can lead to serious confusion when it comes to accessibility and universal design. “The most basic and least expensive way to determine if a restroom is accessible is to review the American with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the American National Standards Institute’s standard (ICC/ANSI A117.1),” says Jon Villwock, lavatory systems and washfountains product manager at Bradley Corp.
To assess your building’s restrooms, “Grab a tape measure and conduct a walkthrough to evaluate any changes that might need to be made,” says Villwock.
The figure above shows a single-user restroom that’s been designed according to the ADAAG. The basic guidelines for a single-user restroom, according to Villwock, are:
- 30-inch by 48-inch access to the sink (the door can’t swing into this rectangle). The measurement starts from the point where a person has 9-inch vertical clearance for their feet and 27-inch vertical clearance for their knees.
- The center line of the toilet must be between 16 and 18 inches from the wall.
- A clear circle of at least 60 inches to allow a wheelchair to turn (the door can swing into this circle).
For multi-user restrooms, the guidelines follow the same principles, but include additional elements. George Spear, product manager at Moen, offers this information about sinks, stalls, and doors:
Sinks & Faucets
Sinks shouldn’t be mounted higher than 34 inches from the floor, and they should have a knee clearance of 27 inches high, 30 inches wide, and 19 inches deep. You also need a clear floor space and insulated pipes under the sink.
Faucets should be lever-operated, push, touch, or electronically controlled. They should be usable with one hand without the need to tightly grasp, pinch, or twist the wrist. Users shouldn’t have to exert more than 5 pounds of force to use the faucet. A good resource on ADA-compliant restrooms is a series of webinars that will focus on restroom accessibility., offered by the Access Board. The sessions are scheduled for early 2010.
Urinals should be stall-type or wall-hung at a maximum of 17 inches from the floor.
Water closets must be 17 to 19 inches from the floor (measured from the floor to the top of the toilet seat). Like faucets, flush valves shouldn’t require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.
Grab bars should be at least 36 inches long and have a gripping surface of at least 1.25 inches, mounted at least 1.5 inches from the wall. They should be able to withstand at least 250 pounds of pressure.
Doors should open with minimal force and have handles that are easy to grab with one hand. Doorways should be at least 32 inches wide with the door open at 90 degrees.
Many other opportunities exist for making your restrooms, and the areas around them, more accessible, Spear points out. “Hallways and walkways should provide at least 80 inches of clear head room.” He also points out that drinking fountains and water coolers should provide a spout height of no more than 36 inches, with a spout at the front of the unit and a parallel water flow.
Additional considerations include increasing lighting; incorporating objects that are wider, longer, and flatter to grasp with a smooth range of motion; and providing adequate support systems and barriers.
“Making these improvements will require a significant amount of planning and preparation, but the reward of having a space that’s compliant and can be enjoyed by all is worth the effort,” Spear says.
Leah B. Garris (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing editor at Buildings magazine.