In the U.S., handicap accessibility guidelines are established by the federal government under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA regulations are designed to ensure all citizens have equal access to public facilities, regardless of handicaps or disabilities. When it comes to designing a commercial bathroom, ADA lists numerous requirements related to safety, access and operation.
Size and Access
Commercial bathrooms are required to have entrance doors at least 32 inches wide. The doorway should be unobstructed so that hardware and other items won't interfere with entry and exit. Within the space, there must be a free and clear circle with a five-foot radius to allow wheelchair users to perform a 360-degree turn.
All public restrooms must have at least one stall designed for handicapped access. For every six additional stalls, one ADA stall must be added. Each ADA stall should be 36 inches wide with a door that swings out to allow wheelchair users to enter. The toilet should be no higher than 19 inches, and two grab bars must be placed around the toilet to help users transfer from a chair.
Fixtures and Operation
All hardware and operational components should be easily operated by all, including those without a strong grip. Levers or push buttons are recommended over knobs. Sinks and vanities should be no higher than 34 inches and should provide knee space at least 27 inches high to accommodate wheelchair users. A clear path 30 inches wide by 48 inches long should lead from the sink to the door. If mirrors are installed, the bottom edge may not be higher than 40 inches above the finished floor.
Showers and Bathtubs
In facilities that use showers or bathtubs, at least one unit should be designed to ADA standards. For bathtubs, this means that the area is designed to allow easy transfer from a wheelchair to the tub. Grab bars should be provided to assist with transfer, and no metal tracks may be used on the edges of the tub. Shower stalls must be at least 36 inches wide by 36 inches deep and should be equipped with a 60-inch shower hose. All ADA showers should have a seat mounted no higher than 19 inches above the floor. This seat should be mounted on the opposite wall from shower controls and must extend the entire length of the stall.
Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.