Taking Accessibility to a New Level

Driven by standards, demographics, and economics, demand is increasing for stylish yet functional ADA-compliant and universal bathroom designs
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Sponsored by Inpro Architectural Products and Scranton Products

WHEELCHAIR TURN RADIUSES

Defined as a circular space that allows a wheelchair to make a 180-degree or 360-degree turn, ADA requires a 60-inch minimum diameter turning space. A T-shaped turning space that allows a three-point turn is also permitted with a 60-inch minimum square with arms and base 36 inches wide.

Images courtesy of Scranton Products

The minimum clear width for single wheelchair passage must be 32 inches at a point and 36 inches continuously.


The space for a wheelchair to make a 180-degree turn must be a clear space of 60 inches in diameter or a T-shaped 30 inches by 48 inches of turning space.

A portion of the 60-inch diameter or T-shaped turning spaces may be located under countertops, lavatories, or accessories, as long as the required knee and toe clearance is provided. The required forward approach must provide clear floor space in front and under the lavatory 30 inches wide by 48 inches deep minimum, and the required amount of toe clearance underneath the lavatory is 17 inches minimum to 25 inches maximum. Toe clearance at least 9 inches above the finish floor must be provided for the full depth.

On the topic of protruding objects, restroom accessories with leading edges between 27 inches and 80 inches above the floor can protrude 4 inches maximum into a circulation path. This is to the benefit of vision-impaired individuals and users who navigate along the base of walls. Should the leading edge be at or below 27 inches, the restroom accessory may project any amount, as long as the required minimum width of an adjacent clear access aisle is maintained. All floor-standing and surface-mounted units protruding more than 4 inches should be located in corners, alcoves, or between other structural elements.

Furthermore, ADA-compliant restroom accessories should be operable with one hand with a force not to exceed 5 pounds and no pinching, grasping, or twisting of the wrist required.

GRAB BARS

A key component of accessible bathroom design is well-placed grab bars. In the past, grab bars were very institutional looking, lending a sterile, unwelcoming feel to the bathroom. Fortunately, this has all changed with today’s stylish selection of products.

Functionally, Fisher Knott points out that sometimes grab bars are only installed on one side of the toilet, whereas most people need to use both arms to lift themselves off the toilet. Furthermore, left-handed folks naturally favor their left side for most activity and often do not find the needed support in the bathroom design.

Consequently, in a standard accessible toilet stall, a 42-inch and 36-inch grab bar should be positioned on the toilet side wall and back wall. The side grab bar should be no more than 12 inches from the interior corner, and the rear grab bar no more than 6 inches from the corner. The bars should be installed between 33 and 36 inches from the ground and run parallel to the floor.

Images courtesy of Inpro

Where a seat is provided in standard roll-in type shower compartments, grab bars should be provided on the back wall and the sidewall opposite the seat. Grab bars should not be provided above the seat. Without a seat, the grab bars should be provided on three walls.

For children’s stalls, those dimensions are between 18 inches and 27 inches maximum above the finish floor, as measured to the top of the gripping surface.

If the toilet tank is in the way, it is possible to install the rear grab bar 3 inches above the tank. However, nothing can be installed above the grab bars themselves. The bars should be between 114 and 112 inches thick and provide about 1½ inches of clearance from the wall. They should be made of non-rusting material with acid etching or a rough surface for increased grip.

In terms of structural strength, the grab bars must be able to withstand a vertical or horizontal force of 250 pounds as applied at any point on the grab bar, fastener, mounting device, or supporting structure.

In placing the grab bars in the shower area, the ADA requires the following:

  • For transfer type shower compartments, grab bars must be provided across the control wall and back wall to a point 18 inches from the control wall.
  • Where a seat is provided in standard roll-in type shower compartments, grab bars should be provided on the back wall and the side wall opposite the seat.
  • In the absence of a seat, grab bars must be provided on three walls, installed a maximum of 6 inches from adjacent walls.
  • For alternate roll-in type shower compartments, grab bars must be provided on the back wall and the side wall farthest from the compartment entry. The bars should not be installed above the seat, and installation needs to be a maximum of 6 inches from adjacent walls.

Taking a close look at standard ADA measurements, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access in the College of Design tested a number of configurations and actually came to the conclusion that in many cases, grab bars are inadequately supporting toilet transfers.

In order to carry this out, the research team built an adjustable aluminum framing system for simulation testing of multiple configurations in order to identify the optimal configuration of grab bars to support both independent and assisted transfers performed by older adults and caregivers. More than 130 residents and three dozen caregivers from 11 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities participated in the two-phased 2017 study.

Ultimately, the study found the optimal configuration to be fold-down grab bars on both sides of the toilet, 14 inches from center line of the toilet, 32 inches above the floor, and extended a minimum of 6 inches in front of the toilet with one side open and a sidewall 24 inches from the center line of the toilet on the other side.

Furthermore, the “Beyond ADA Accessibility Requirements: Meeting Seniors’ Needs for Toilet Transfers” study suggests that adaptable configurations that can be tailored to the needs of individuals may be the ideal solution.

SHOWERS AND SEATS

Moving into other areas of accessible design, when building or renovating a shower, the following dimensions must be adhered to, per the ADA:

Photo courtesy of Inpro

Per the ADA, transfer showers must be a minimum of 36 inches by 36 inches. Pictured here is a transfer shower at Texas A&M University in College Station.


Image courtesy of Inpro

A transfer-type shower compartment should be 36 inches by 36 inches clear inside dimensions, measured at the center points of opposing sides, and should have a 36-inch-wide minimum entry on the face of the shower compartment.

  • Transfer-type shower compartments need to be 36 inches by 36 inches clear inside dimensions, measured at the center points of opposing sides, and should have a 36-inch-wide minimum entry on the face of the shower compartment. It is important to note that there is no construction tolerance, given the shower must be exactly 36 inches by 36 inches.
  • A clearance of 36 inches wide minimum by 48 inches long minimum measured from the control wall should be provided.
  • For standard roll-in-type shower compartments, they must be 30 inches wide minimum by 60 inches deep minimum clear inside dimensions, measured at center points of opposing sides, and must have a 60-inches-wide minimum entry on the face of the shower compartment.
  • A 30-inch-wide minimum by 60-inch-long minimum clearance should be provided adjacent to the open face of the shower compartment.

For settings where a seat is incorporated:

Image courtesy of Inpro

A standard roll-in type shower compartment should be 30 inches wide minimum by 60 inches deep minimum clear inside dimensions, measured at center points of opposing sides, with a 60-inch-wide minimum entry on the face of the shower compartment.

  • In a standard roll-in shower compartment, it must be a folding type, installed on the side wall adjacent to the controls, and extend from the back wall to a point within 3 inches of the compartment entry. The top of the seat must be 17 inches minimum and 19 inches maximum above the bathroom finish floor. This is applicable to all seats, not just transfers.
  • In transfer-type showers, the seat should also extend from the back wall to a point within 3 inches of the compartment entry. The top of the seat must be 17 inches minimum and 19 inches maximum above the bathroom finish floor.
  • Similar to the grab-bar requirements, the seat must withstand a vertical or horizontal force of 250 pounds as applied at any point on the seat, fastener, mounting device, or supporting structure.

A note about thresholds, installed showers must bring the floor to within ½ inch of the top of the threshold to be ADA compliant. Transfer showers can be rounded, beveled, or vertical, and roll-in and alternate roll-in showers can have up to a 14-inch vertical rise with a 14-inch high bevel, not steeper than 1:2.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

Notice

Academies
Taking Accessibility to a New Level
Buyer's Guide
ADA Transfer Shower Receptor
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Aria Partitions for Ultimate Privacy
Full-height, floor-to-ceiling design makes the most of restroom projects. No more sightlines, flat doors and panels, or large floor or ceiling gaps. From innovative features to wide-ranging colors and textures, Aria Partitions offer unmatched design freedom for extreme privacy and upscale appeal. The partitions are featured above in Midnight from the Bold Collection.
Scranton Products
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