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Accessible bathrooms may be governed by strict sets of compliance standards, but the truth is that a code-compliant bathroom can come in many possible shapes and sizes. As long as the shape and functionality of each component meets the minimum allowable guidelines, you’ll have the freedom to adjust the project to fit a wide range of aesthetics or custom preferences. Some of the elements you’ll need to pay close attention to in your accessible design will include:
Showers, in particular, may be subject to specialized ADA requirements depending upon the type of unit you’re installing. A roll-in shower and a transfer shower, for example, each serve unique accessibility purposes and therefore abide by very different compliance standards.
But even a traditional shower design can include ADA compliant elements for additional accessibility, which is of huge benefit in commercial projects that may serve a wide range of users or residents. The best bathroom designs will either be ready-equipped with everything they need to comply with ADA standards, or will have the built-in structure necessary to be upgraded for compliance in the future. Properly reinforced shower walls that are pre-rated to support later installation of ADA compliant grab bars, for example, are an excellent addition to a standard shower design.
Let’s dive in and take a closer look at what we consider the 17 most impactful features and options for an accessible bathroom design. All are worth including in your next bathroom architecture project.
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Form follows function. When you’re plotting out an accessible bathroom design, you’ve got to start by asking yourself who will be using the bathroom, and which accessibility functions will have the most impact on day-to-day usability. You might reflect upon questions like these:
The answers will drive your design and help you to prioritize the accessibility features that will be both the most relevant and the most helpful.
At EverFab, we manufacture shower units and shower-tub units that comply with (and exceed) a wide variety of accessibility standards. However, ADA and FHA are the two that you will encounter most often in bathroom architecture. Between the two, we prefer to reference ADA standards due to their generally higher threshold for accessibility. The major difference between them can be summed up like this:
This isn’t to say that FHA standards do not promote accessibility—they do. FHA compliant showers must be reinforced with the appropriate strength to support future installation of accessibility features such as grab bars, for instance. However, if you want to ensure that your bathroom project covers the most possible bases, paying attention to ADA compliance standards is your best bet.
The general shape of the room and doorways will be critical to overall bathroom accessibility, regardless of the plumbing fixtures that are the focal points of the bathroom. Here are a few primary features of a generally accessible bathroom design:
According to ADA guidelines, an accessible bathroom toilet is recommended to be in the range of 17-19” in height. This should be comfortable for general users, but a higher toilet can make it easier for disabled individuals to lower themselves, stand up, or transfer from a mobility device to the toilet. A thicker toilet seat or wall-mounted toilet can be selected for more customization of unit height to best suit the intended user.
You might also consider accessible toilet features like these for your accessible bathroom project:
Sinks and vanities can be tricky, as they must be positioned for both sitting and standing users with enough open space underneath for a seated user’s knees. Sink units should be wall-mounted with no cabinet beneath the basin. If approached from the front, use a 34” maximum height for the rim of the sink, and ensure at least 27” clearance for knee space. It is also possible to select a sink that can be approached from one side. Consider these additional accessibility options in your design:
The dimensions of the shower and the threshold are two of the most critical elements of accessibility, regardless of whether you’ve chosen ADA, FHA, ANSI, or some other set of standards as your baseline for compliance. The type of shower you’re dealing with will certainly affect the exact required dimensions. For transfer and roll-in showers (two of the most common accessible designs), these are the design features to monitor:
ADA compliant transfer showers are designed to support standing users who are able to transfer themselves (without assistance) from a walker or wheelchair into the shower. The ADA standards and features below are intended to provide these users with the safest and most comfortable experience, and differ from roll-in shower standards in several ways. In general, ADA transfer showers are smaller, require less clearance, and serve a different purpose than ADA roll-in showers.
Read more about these ADA standards here. There is some flexibility if your project is in a residential home. Grab bars and seats, for instance, are optional in a residential setting so long as the unit is reinforced to support future installation, if necessary.
A fully wheelchair accessible bathroom design will feature an ADA compliant roll-in shower stall. Rather than transferring out of the chair and into the shower, these units allow for users to roll their wheelchairs directly into the shower for the easiest, most comfortable experience. The ADA shower requirements for a roll-in shower are somewhat more demanding than a transfer design.
The strength-tested seat in a roll-in shower should be foldable, naturally, so that the user has the option to sit in their chair or to use the required, built-in shower seat. Our S6334A roll-in shower stall meets all of these standards and features thresholds in 15⁄8”, 1”, or 1⁄4” no-recess height options, meaning you can be confident that it will meet the needs of your bathroom design.
It’s worth noting that the threshold standard may be subject to an exception: accessible bathrooms in existing facilities in which a ½” threshold would compromise the floor slab's structural integrity will be permitted to use a maximum of a 2” threshold.
A standard shower may be able to do without these design features, but an accessible bathroom design will accommodate for the needs of all users with required or recommended accessories like these.
At EverFab, we offer three fully ADA compliant, flangeless styles (straight, L-shaped, and U-shaped) to suit the shape and needs of each shower unit. All compliant grab bars must adhere to the following standards.
Our folding shower seats are all constructed from durable, water-resistant phenolic material that exceeds ADA strength requirements (ours support up to 1,000 pounds of weight) and fold to preserve space. Pay attention to these ADA standards for folding shower seats.
Showerheads, handles, and the like enjoy plenty of design options, but an ADA compliant kit should always include the following features.
Every accessible shower design has one goal above all else: to provide a safe and comfortable shower experience. When you work with EverFab, we pre-install fully ADA compliant shower accessories at our factory and ship with a reliable process that minimizes any risk of compromising the integrity of the shower unit in transport.
All of our units are strength tested to establish compliance with ADA requirements, and Carlson Testing Inc (CTI) has verified that our showers actually exceed the minimum standards by a healthy margin. For example, the grab bars and seat on our ADA compliant shower model S3839A and the grab bars in our tub-shower model TS6032A supported double or more of the required weight thresholds in load-bearing tests.
We’re also well-versed in unique state administrative code compliance requirements, such as those for Washington State and California. While not required by the ADA, our proprietary reinforced shower bases are the sturdiest in the industry. Cracking and damage to the shower bottom is the most common failure point in showers, and EverFab is proud to be the exception to the trend.
We would consider it a privilege to work with you and show you firsthand what makes our units so reliable for a fully accessible bathroom design. Give us a call or book a meeting to talk with our expert team of shower and bathroom artisans!
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