Handicapped Accessible Bathroom

Author(s):Ross Boyle, Michael Haines, Christopher Nelson,

Jarod Salsman,ChadWilbur


Mark Gloekler states, “The focus on retrofitting to make the interior of bathrooms accessible often overlooks a substantial problem in existing buildings: There is simply not enough room to ensure that a person in a wheelchair can easily enter and exit the bathroom. The path of entrance or exit remains inaccessible due to the lack of a proper approach path, maneuvering clearance or clear width” (2005).

The objective of this project was to create a handicapped accessible bathroom, one design each for a shower and a bathtub. The thought process was to minimize the area (and therefore cost) required while providing ample room to maneuver an average size wheelchair. The reference for all measurements came from the code of federal regulations, ADA standards for accessible design (1994). According to the Home Safety Council most accidents in the bathroom occur while transferring to or from the toilet or bathtub as a result of slipping on wet surfaces (2005). It is recommended to install handrails that are sturdy enough to support a persons weight and add non-skid mats or safety strip decals in the bathtub. Handrails are already required by the ADA however, we did design the room so that a handrail was available on each wall at any particular station.

Description of the Design

Both the hallway leading to the bathroom and the doorway into it are set at an interior width of 36 inches. This allows enough space for an average wheelchair to make a 90 degree turn. The general design for the bathroom is a 72” x 114” room. The sink and toilet are set against the same wall to provide 19.5 square feet of open floor space. General ADA Standards for Accessible Design put out by the U.S. Department of Justice were referenced. Figures 1, 2, and 3 are given to illustrate dimension requirements followed in our design. The bathtub is outfitted with a 15”seat at the back of the tub resulting in an overall length of 6 feet. The bathtub was the basis for the width of the room while the requirement for open floor space dictated the length.

The requirement for all handrails was 33”—36” above the floor. The faucet control area must be located above the tub rim and below the handrail. As you can see from figure 1 there are also specifications as to the minimum length of handrails as well as distance from the ends of the bathtub.

Figure 1. ADA requirements for accessible bathtub (U.S. Department of Justice)

The sink sits adjacent to the bathtub while maintaining the width requirement for maneuverability.

Figure 2. ADA requirements for accessible lavatory (U.S. Department of Justice)

Figure 2 shows the many different heights and depths for sink clearances. The clearance of an individual’s knees and feet, as well as the average reach to the controls are outlined by the ADA. There is a side to side clearance to guarantee freedom of movement for the wheelchair. A mirror is locatedabove the sink at 35” off the floor 5 inches under the maximum allowed by the ADA.

The toilet was placed to the right of the door immediately inside the bathroom. There are two handrails, one on each wall adjacent to the toilet. The toilet is accessible from the front only due to the proximity of the sink. Figure 3 illustrates the ADA requirements for toilets. Notice the figure on the left is inverted from our actual design which is on the opposite wall. We picked this requirement for open floor space due to the location of the lavatory to the immediate left of the toilet.

Figure 3. ADA requirements for accessible toilets (U.S. Department of Justice)

Results and Discussion

Our original design constituted a smaller overall room by placing the bathtub seat over the tub vice behind it. We decided against this design as there was not enough floor space after the addition of the toilet and sink to allow the door to close with a wheelchair in the room. Since extra space was required to accommodate the wheelchair we widened the room with the addition of the seat set aft of the bathtub. This addition set the width of the room.

Total floor space required including the toilet and sinkis 66” wide by 66” long, or 30.25 square feet. With the bathtub occupying 18.0 sq. ft. we are left with 39.0 sq. ft. of space for the addition of the toilet and sink. The minimum floor space requirement dictated the length of the room. It was determined that utilizing a square room and thereby minimizing the amount of wasted space this is the minimum square footage possible to meet ADA requirements. We believe this is a completely affordable option for an accessible bathroom in any residence. The increased floor space required by the ADA should not, in most cases, dictate unreasonably creative remodeling. Our design fits all fixtures into an average sized bathroom with ample room to maneuver a wheelchair.


Home Safety Council. Home Safety Tips: Bathroom Safety Tips. 2005. Available at:

United States Department of Justice. Code of Federal Regulations. ADA Standards for Accessible Design. 1994. Available at:

Gloekler, Mark. Barrier-Free Washrooms. The Space Problem. 2005. Available at: