Thinking of building a new bathroom or remodeling an existing one? You may be wondering whether you need to follow ADA Bathroom requirements.
As an expert in toilets, I’ve been approached about this issue many times over the years. Now, while I’ve reminded business owners that they are legally required to be ADA-compliant, I also recommend homeowners—who do not legally have to be ADA-compliant— to follow the ADA guidelines for building a bathroom.
Because although you may be non-disabled today, this might change with old age. Furthermore, guests to your home may not be able-bodied. Not to mention, ADA-compliant bathrooms are actually much more comfortable than regular ones.
So here’s all you need to know about ADA compliance in bathrooms.
What Are The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), put into effect in 1990, is a civil rights law that protects disabled individuals from discrimination in public spaces. This means that the reach of the ADA extends into schools, jobs, transportation, and other places available to the general public.
This law ensures that people with disabilities have access to the same opportunities and accessibilities as able-bodied people. To this effect, there are 5 sections of the ADA addressing different aspects in which a disabled person may be discriminated against:
- Employment (Title I)
- Public Services (Title II)
- Public Accommodations (Title III)
- Telecommunications (Title IV)
- Miscellaneous (Title V).
Of these, Title III, Public Accommodations, addresses the need for accessible public spaces. So, for facilities such as bathrooms, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, privately owned transportation systems, etc., Title III dictates that construction designs consider the needs of people with disabilities. This is where the need for ADA-compliant bathrooms is upheld.
Especially considering how sensitive a space it is, there are numerous guidelines to follow when building an ADA-compliant bathroom.
As I’ve mentioned before, ADA compliance is not legally required if you are a homeowner. But just because you don’t have to doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Why make the world crueler than it has to be non-able-bodied people? I always recommend following ADA guidelines for inclusivity.
For non-homeowners, the ADA applies to all organizations that fall under at least one of the following criteria:
- All local, county, state, and federal government agencies
- Any business which engages with the general public on a regular basis
- Private companies with 15 or more employees
- Charitable and non-profit organizations with 15 or more employees or those that engage with the general public on a regular basis.
You can find out more about the Americans with Disabilities Act here.
Regulations to Follow for ADA Bathrooms
Hopefully, you now have a good idea of what the ADA is and what it entails. So how does the ADA translate into public bathrooms? Let’s move on to the specifics:
The first thing to consider when building an ADA-compliant bathroom is the area in which it is being built. It must be positioned somewhere that is easy for disabled people and people in wheelchairs to access. The bathroom door must be at least 42 inches wide to admit a person sitting in a wheelchair.
And the threshold should not exceed one-half-inch. The door’s depth can be no more than 24 inches.
A person in a wheelchair will require ample space in which to move about, so it can’t be a cramped bathroom. ADA rules dictate that there should be a turning radius of at least 60 inches in the center of the bathroom.
To be able to make use of sinks, toilet seats, and showers, people with disabilities require extra space to get into specific positions — these are called “transfer movements.”
In order to allow disabled individuals to make these transfer movements properly, grab bars should be installed next to the sink, toilet, and bathing area. Two grab bars should be placed at the side of the toilet (42 inches high) and on the rear wall (36 inches high). The sidewall grab bar needs to be at least 54 inches long.
It’s important that there be two grab bars, as people in wheelchairs will use them to transfer and position themselves.
The construction material of the grab bars is not an important consideration as long as they are able to withstand heavy loads and sudden impacts.
Aside from grab bars, you might need Raised Toilet Seats for the Elderly and Disabled people.
ADA toilet requirements are probably the most important to follow when constructing an ADA-compliant bathroom. To begin with, you should get a comfort height toilet that is in the open-front style to make it easier for disabled individuals to use.
It is permitted to mount the sink and toilet on the opposite or rear wall. However, as mentioned before, you must ensure that there is ample space in which a wheelchair can be rotated. The ADA-compliant toilet must be situated in an area that is at least 60 inches wide to allow for enough maneuvering space.
There must be a clearance area around the toilet of 56 by 56 inches (measuring from the rear wall and sidewall). At least 18 inches of space must be left between the sidewall and the toilet.
The ADA toilet height is a minimum of 17 inches from the floor to the seating area, but do note that this does not include the seat.
Installing an automated toilet flushing mechanism is best when building an ADA-compliant bathroom. It’s also important to position on the broader side of the toilet space at a maximum height of up to 44 inches (1.1 m).
The distance between the floor and the toilet paper dispenser is required to be between 15 and 48 inches. The dispenser should also be mounted on the sidewall, under the sidewall grab bars (reminder: be sure to install the grab bars at least 7-9 inches from the top of the toilet).
Read the following article: 14 Different Types of Toilet Flushing Systems You Must Know About
The sink area of an ADA toilet must be a minimum of 30″ x48″ inches. When carrying out these measurements, it’s important to measure not from the wall but from the center of the sink. This gives a more accurate appraisal of the amount of space required by a person with disabilities.
The sink itself also has minimum size requirements. Its width must be at least 30 inches, and its height should measure 34 inches from the floor. Also, note that if you’re installing a built-in sink, the cabinet must be no more than 34 inches from the ground.
Make sure to leave a space of 18 inches between the sidewall and the center of the sink. It’s also important to ensure that the sink is clear of the door when it is opened, so there are no rude shocks.
It’s also a good idea to calculate the thickness of the tiles you are installing, as the sink’s height needs to be measured from the floor surface. Also, note that the clearance underneath the sink must be at least 27 inches from the floor.
Some public bathrooms have bathtubs. If you’re thinking of installing one in yours, the minimum area that is required to be clear is 60 by 30 inches. A seat must also be installed inside the bathtub. If the bathtub seat is installed at the head of the bathtub, there must be a clear area of 75″ x30″ inches.
There are two guidelines to maintain the minimum shower clear area. If the size of the shower is 36 by 36 inches, then the clear space must be at least 46″ x36″ inches.
The other option is for the shower size of 30 by 60 inches (76 cm x 1.5 m). In that case, you need to provide the size of the maneuvering area of at least 36 by 60 inches (91 cm x 1.5 m).
Yes, even faucets must be compliant in an ADA bathroom. Many people with disabilities are unable to apply force or use strong wrist movements. For this reason, an ADA-compliant bathroom should have faucets that are easy to use and do not require the user to exert a lot of force.
Push-up and lever faucets are best for this purpose. Even better if they are activated via a motion sensor.
There should be a mirror in every bathroom. When installing a mirror in an ADA-compliant bathroom, you must remember to measure the visual height of the mirror. The mirror should be positioned 40 inches from the floor.
With the legally dictated ADA toilet requirements out of the way, let’s move on to the other things to keep in mind when constructing an ADA-compliant bathroom. Some of these are not absolute requirements, but I recommend them for inclusivity for residential and commercial buildings.
As you already know, their floors are susceptible to getting slippery due to the high levels of moisture and wetness within bathrooms. So, although there are no official ADA regulations regarding floors, it’s a good idea to choose tiles that are less slippery.
Brick, terracotta tile, and quarry tile are some examples of non-slippery tile choices that you can consider when building an ADA-compliant bathroom.
As you know, some showers have curbs that prevent the spreading of shower water into the rest of the bathroom. There are some considerations of the curb for ADA-compliant bathrooms. The curb should be less than 0.5 inches if the shower area measures 36″ x36″ inches.
However, if the dimensions of the shower area are 30″ x60″ inches, it’s best to avoid a curb entirely.
If you’re mounting a wall soap dispenser, it needs to be at least 15 inches from the floor. If you are installing a soap dispenser on the counter, it needs to be at the height of 44 inches. It is essential for users to be able to reach any soap dispenser with one hand.
To this effect, soap dispensers must also be mounted such that they don’t protrude beyond 4 inches from the wall.
It’s also important that the soap dispensing mechanism is easy — it should not require complex or forceful wrist movements. Once again, if it’s automated, that’s the best.
It is important to ensure that paper towel dispensers installed in an ADA-compliant bathroom are operable using one hand. They should also not be positioned more than 48 inches from the floor. Otherwise, it may limit the movement of a disabled individual trying to move about in a wheelchair.
After reading all of that, you may be wondering whether it really is necessary to ensure that all restrooms be ADA-compliant.
Well, as you know, private residences are not required to be built according to ADA compliance guidelines. However, if you are building a restroom in a business or other commercial organization, you should do your best to ensure ADA compliance.
If your bathrooms are not ADA compliant, then you may have to pay up to $75,000 in fines. And, if your company is fined more than once, then you might be fined double that the second time. So, it is better to be safe than sorry, right?