The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a United States federal civil rights law enacted in 1990. The ADA sets a wide range of standards and regulations that protect disabled Americans against discrimination. Many of these regulations were created to ensure that people with disabilities are allowed equal access to public places, including public restrooms, or “toilet rooms,” per ADA jargon.
All public restrooms must be built in compliance with ADA standards. If it is “technically infeasible” to make a set of public restrooms ADA-compliant, a disabled-accessible, unisex restroom must be added next to them or along the nearest, disabled-accessible route. And, if the only restrooms in a multistory public building are located upstairs, and there is no elevator, a disabled-accessible, unisex restroom must be installed on the ground level. In areas where portable toilet rooms are in use, at least 5 percent of the toilet rooms in a clustered group must be disabled-accessible; in small clusters, there must be at least one ADA-compliant unit. All disabled-accessible toilet rooms must lie along a disabled-accessible route/hallway.
The ADA refers to the sit-down, bowled toilets as “water closets.” All ADA-compliant toilet rooms must have at least one disabled-accessible water closet. The toilet seat of standard ADA water closets must be 17 to 19 inches above the floor. There must be a grab bar at least 12 inches in length, behind the toilet, and one at least 42 inches long, to the side of the toilet; both grab bars must lie 33 to 36 inches above the floor. Flush controls should be mounted on the side of the water closet, at a maximum height of 44 inches, and the toilet paper dispenser should be just below the side grab bar. Additionally, there must be a certain amount of clear floor space around the toilet, depending on the particular setup of the restroom.
A toilet stall is basically an enclosed water closet. In a public bathroom that has stalls, at least one must be a standard ADA stall. The requirements of the actual toilet, grab bars and toilet paper dispenser remain, essentially, the same; however, the enclosure walls must meet certain dimensional requirements. All standard stalls must be at least 60 inches wide. Standard stalls with wall-mounted toilets must have a depth of at least 56 inches, while those with floor-mounted toilets must have a depth of at least 59 inches. The bottoms of the outward-facing wall/door and at least one side wall should sit at least 9 inches above the floor. All disabled-accessible stalls must also employ outward-opening, self-closing doors. In restrooms with six or more stalls, there must be at least one smaller (36-inch wide) handicapped-accessible stall, in addition to the standard ADA toilet stall. All ADA-compliant stalls must lie along a disabled-accessible route, within the restroom.
Toilet rooms with urinals must have at least one handicapped-accessible unit. This urinal should have an elongated rim, no more than 17 inches above the floor. There must also be clear floor space of at least 30 inches by 48 inches in front of the urinal. The urinal’s flushing mechanism must be mounted 44 inches or less above the floor.
The ADA refers to bathroom sinks/hand-washing stations as “lavatories.” The rim of the lavatory must lie 34 inches or less above the bathroom floor; there must also be at least 29 inches of space between the floor and the bottom of the sink. There should be no non-insulated, exposed pipes below the sink. If the sink has automatic faucets, they must run continuously for at least 10 seconds. Finally, the bottom of any mirrors that are provided must be placed no more than 40 inches above the floor.