How to Design a Handicap-Accessible Bathrooms


Providing bathroom accommodations for the disabled isn’t just important if you own a public building, it’s required by law. But just how do you design accessible bathrooms for the disabled? What are the rules and regulations that architects need to know before having a contractor begin work?

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at designing accessible bathrooms for your commercial facility and what important questions you should keep in mind.

Is the Sink or Vanity Easily Accessible?

Guests should be able to wash their hands easily after using the restroom to promote a clean environment and reduce the spread of dangerous bacteria. However, certain sink or vanity constructions may make it more difficult for someone with a disability to complete this simple task.

To make your bathroom more accessible, consider mounting sinks to the wall, no more than 34 inches high and with at least 27 inches of clearance underneath. That way a guest in a wheelchair can easily approach from the front to wash their hands.

bathroom material

How Accessible Is the Toilet?

If you’re in charge of a commercial restroom, at least one toilet must be wheelchair accessible. The American Disabilities Act suggests the toilet be around 17 to 19 inches high, which makes it easy for all users to sit down, stand up, or transfer from a wheelchair.

You’ll also need to install a grab bar mounted on the closest wall. The preferred placement is two grab bars positioned 36 inches apart with the toilet placed 18 inches from either bar. This makes it easy for anyone to use the bathroom no matter what additional support they may need.

Adequate Lighting Is Important for Bathroom Accessibility

Making sure that your commercial restroom is well lit is one way to ensure accessibility. Lighting should be abundant in all areas, including inside each bathroom stall. Try to plan bathroom lighting ahead of time to avoid shadows, which might conceal hidden obstacles or create the illusion of a supportive surface where no support is available.

It’s also recommended to use motion-activated lights, so they’ll turn on automatically even when users have trouble reaching the light switch. This nifty piece of technology can also help to save your organization money since motion-activated lights turn off automatically when the facility isn’t in use.

Other Design Features for a Handicap-Accessible Bathroom

Although proper lighting and support bars are important, they’re not the only things you’ll need to consider when designing your next bathroom. For example, stall doors that open out instead of in allow for more room inside the stall itself. You should also consider hook placement on the back of stall doors so they’re accessible by those who may be disabled.

In general, doorways will need to be at least 34 inches wide for a wheelchair to pass through, but wider or labyrinth entrances might also be considered.

To learn more about restroom design for commercial facilities, download our free eBook Restroom Design for Commercial Facilities. With helpful information on choosing partitions, sustainability concerns, and more, this free guide is essential for anyone thinking about designing or redesigning a commercial bathroom.