If you are looking to find ADA compliancy for the restrooms in your commercial buildings, the least expensive and most basic way to determine accessibility is to review the American with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) as well as the American National Standards Institute’s Standard (ICC/ANSI A117.1). Since 1990, business owners are mandated to modify their physical structures in order to meet the needs of millions of Americans with disabilities.
The federal legislation applies to a building’s approach and entrance, access to goods and services, and ability of disabled individuals to use water fountains and other public amenities. These requirements not only affect government buildings and public spaces, but also every small business with a brick-and-mortar retail space. It also applies — with very specific guidelines — to the accessibility and use of a building’s public restroom.
According to the 2010 update to ADAAG, the basic ADA guidelines for a single-user restroom are for the toilet space and sinks/wash stations. For multi-user restrooms, the ADA compliance guidelines follow the same principles, but include a few additional elements.
When designing your ADA compliant bathroom sign, consider the following guidelines:
- An ADA-compliant toilet should have, at minimum, a 60-inch diameter, with enough space to accommodate a wheelchair on the sides of the toilet or directly in front of it.
- The seat cover dispensers are also at 15”–48” from where they grab the seat cover from the dispenser.
- The toilet seat is required to be between 17 and 19 inches from the toilet base to the top of the seat.
(the requirements differ just a little bit)
- In a corner handicap, stalls require a minimum of 60” x 60” compartment and is required with a minimum door size of 32” and the maximum size and more common is the 36” door.
- Ambulatory compartment stalls are 35” – 37” width and have a 32” door which is handicap prepped.
- Most handicap doors swing out for more room in the compartment.
- Having an alcove stall which is surrounded by three walls require 60” diameter on the inside of the compartment.
- A 36” stall door is used most often with a wheel fitting through that opening.
Be sure that there is ample space within the toilet stall. Enough space that a single wheelchair can freely rotate within it. When designing the layout, keep in mind it should be for a forward or parallel approach to the equipment. If you need to utilize space beneath fixtures, be sure there’s enough space for legs to move freely when a person is sitting in their wheelchair.
According to the ADA, you should anchor the horizontal grab-bar handrail and make sure it has a smooth, easy-to-grasp surface. It should be installed on the closest wall or partition.
- The grab bars are located off the back wall 33”-36” from the floor and are 36” width.
- Another grab bar 42” length is also used at 33”-36” from the floor off the wall on the side.
ADA bathroom requirements say that sinks or countertops are no more than 34 inches high, with enough open space beneath for acceptable knee clearance. To avoid interfering with the disabled customer’s movements, plumbing located underneath a countertop or sink must be insulated or protected.
Mechanisms such as faucets, knobs, valves, etc, that require patron use, must be workable with just one hand. Although not ADA required, many people recommend that faucets be lever-operated, push, touch, or electronically controlled. It’s better to avoid having to tightly grasp, pinch, or twist the wrist.
Tissue paper, soap, and towel dispensers are staples of any compliant ADA bathroom.
- Towel dispensers are mounted at 48” at the bottom of the dispenser from the floor.
- Toilet tissue dispensers are at 15”-19” from the floor.
- Soap dispensers should be mounted no higher than 44” above the floor.
Usually, hand dryers are either touch-free or motion-activated which in turn means they are economical and easy to install. Those that don’t use any type of sensor are poor choices for disabled people like those that are blind. Therefore, ADA bathroom requirements state that the hand dryer not extend greater than 4 inches from the wall. The hand dryer also requires a 30” x 48” clear floor space and mounted minimum 15” and no higher than 48” from the floor.
The mirrors must be ADA approved and are tilted to help the handicap. When mounting on the wall, the bottom of the reflective mirror may not start lower than 40” from the floor.
Accessible toilet and bathing rooms must be labeled by signs with the International Symbol of Accessibility. For existing bathrooms not in compliance with the ADA’s requirements, directional signs must indicate the nearest accessible toilet or bathroom. Such identifiable signs need to be mounted outside of the accessible bathroom on the door’s latch side, 48” above the floor when measuring from the bottom of the lowest tactile character. Section 703 contains detailed requirements for the visual and tactile characters to be used on ADA compliant signs.
These are general guidelines outlined above, but if you’re looking to be 100% confident in your ADA bathroom compliancy, then you should be sure to review the ADA’s specific requirements. When following the guidelines, be sure to remember to use measurements within the finished materials or completed space. Most of the technical requirements for toilets and bathrooms can be found in ADAAG’s Chapter 6: Plumbing Elements and Facilities.
Now you may be asking, “what makes a good ADA-compliant product?” The key to ADA compliance is choosing well-made, durable products that are easy to use and require minimal physical effort. Don’t forget that bathrooms in every commercial setting should also be designed to impress customers, rather than drive them away. As a business, large or small, it is your responsibility to follow ADA bathroom requirements in commercial buildings, or you risk facing severe penalties and invite possible lawsuits.