What makes a restroom accessible?

Today on the Direct Access blog, we set out to answer the question of what exactly makes an accessible restroom space.

The specific size of an accessible toilet space is something that is not outlined nor specified by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, there are a lot of guidelines that make strict recommendations, which we will be detailing here today.

Naturally, a single-use toilet space includes elements (beyond the toilet itself), a sink/lavatory, and a door that swings into the toilet room itself with its own latch and automatic closer. These elements each have defined spaces, as well as set rules for where they can overlap.  For instance, the arc of the swing door opening must not overlap with the space defined for the toilet and sink elements. However, the toilet and sink elements may both overlap in a floor plan.

Although the design of a disabled toilet is specified many times, specifically in sections 213.2, 213.3.7, 216.8, 603, and 604 respectively, the spacing and size of toilet rooms are largely dependent on the facilities and elements within that toilet space. Pictured is one example of a typical single-user toilet room.

If for instance you had a sink and toilet sharing space on a wall, and the sink does not overlap the clearance for the toilet (just the sink clear space overlaps), this is acceptable. However, an arc of an entrance door swing must miss the clear spaces set out for the sink and toilet and allow a user to enter outside these designated areas for the sink and toilet fixtures.

The following Standards address the rules of installation for such lavatories:

2010 ADA Standard 213.2, Toilet Rooms and Bathing Rooms, states, “Where toilet rooms are provided, each toilet room shall comply with [Standard] 603.”

2010 ADA Standard 603.2 Clearances, states, “Clearances shall comply with 603.2.”

2010 ADA Standard 603.2.1 Turning Space, states, “Turning space complying with [Standard] 304 shall be provided within the room.” The turning space can either be a 60-inch diameter circle or a T-shaped turning space within a 60X60-inch square.

2010 ADA Standard 603.2.2, [Toilet and Bathing Rooms] Overlap, states, “Required clear floor spaces, clearance at fixtures, and turning space shall be permitted to overlap.”

2010 ADA Standard 603.2.3, [Toilet and Bathing Rooms] Door Swing, states, “Doors shall not swing into the clear floor space or clearance required for any fixture. Doors shall be permitted to swing into the required turning space.” An exception to this Standard is for single-user toilet rooms that allow the arc of the door swing to encroach on the clear space of elements as long as there is always a clear space of 30X48 inches beyond the arc.

2010 ADA Standard 213.3.2, Water Closets, states, “Where water closets [toilets] are provided, at least one shall comply with [Standard] 604.”

2010 ADA Standard 604.3.1, [Water Closets and Toilet Compartments] Size, states, “Clearance around a water closet shall be 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum measured perpendicular from the side wall and 56 inches (1420 mm) minimum measured perpendicular from the rear wall.”

Although it might seem daunting to have this many Standards detailing the correct conditions of single-use toilets, the specificity of the design makes all the difference between a wheelchair user who is able to comfortably enter the lavatory, then transfer to the toilet, and then use the sink, against a wheelchair user who cannot do any of these things independently.

The 2010 ADA Standard 604.3.2, [Water Closet Clearance, Size] Overlap, states, “The required clearance around the water closet shall be permitted to overlap the water closet, associated grab bars, dispensers, sanitary napkin disposal units, coat hooks, shelves, accessible routes, clear floor space and clearances required at other fixtures, and the turning space. No other fixtures or obstructions shall be located within the required water closet clearance.” Effectively, this means that the one element that cannot overlap in any way with the toilet area is the door swing.

Furthermore, the 2010 ADA Standard 213.3.4, specifies that an accessible toilet includes at least one water basin not located within the toilet stall itself. As laid out in Standard 305, the clear floor space must be at least 30×48 inches and allow for a forward approach by a wheelchair user, with sufficient knee and toe clearance complying with Standard 306.

Meanwhile, there is a further, separate standard for door maneuvering space, which varies depending on the movement style of the door. For toilets that utilize a latch door that pushes into the toilet space to enter and then a pull movement to exit, we would refer to (2010 ADA Standard Table 404.2.4.1).

When constructing a disabled toilet space, it is crucial to recognize these various standards, because a person in a wheelchair needs ample room to maneuver in toilets independently of others – because this is ultimately what true accessibility means. There is surely nothing more intrinsic as a human right than for a person to use a restroom, which is exactly why sufficiently sized toilet spaces are so acutely specified in the ADA Standards.

Signage for single-user toilet rooms is covered in the 2010 ADA Standard 216.8, the rules for which are not that much different from multi-user toilet rooms.  In addition to complying with Standard 703.5, signage of single-user toilet rooms must include raised characters and braille and include the International Symbol of Accessibility to indicate the accessibility of the bathroom.

Sadly, many public and private toilets across the U.S. still do not meet any of these standards set out by the ADA. This is an unjust reality when toilet facilities are surely one of the most basic and fundamental tools for human function.

Direct Access would be delighted to offer you the proper guidance and expertise you need to become compliant with each of these Standards and create a barrier-free experience for all mobility-impaired users of your site.

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