If your construction or large renovation project kicked off on or after March 15, you’re required to comply with new requirements for accessible facilities.
Along with ANSI/ICC A117.1, the Americans with Disabilities Act forms the basis for state accessibility codes. Given the recent updates to both, it’s worth comparing your washrooms against the requirements to make sure they comply.
If not, include them in your renovation – the answer may be as simple as mounting a dispenser lower on the wall.
Understand the Changes
As with the original 1991 ADA regulations, washrooms must provide enough space for wheelchairs to maneuver. Equipment like dispensers and receptacles must also be accessible by people with limited reach. However, the new update can be more forgiving to existing facilities.
“The 2010 ADA Standards modified the original to accommodate more practical field conditions,” says Alan Gettelman, vice president of external affairs for Bobrick Washroom Equipment, which offers a design guide reflecting the new regulations at bobrick.com. “For example, previously the toilet had to be 18 inches from the side wall in a 60- by 59-inch wheelchair accessible toilet compartment. In the new code, it’s 16 to 18 inches.”
Facilities serving children should take note of the update’s kid-friendly sizing. The original guidelines didn’t consider children’s physical dimensions, but the new version includes specifications for children’s toilets and guidelines for baby changing stations.
To learn more about specific changes, see sidebar or visit ada.gov.
Protect Yourself from Future Complaints
Even if your washroom is minimally compliant, that may not protect your building from complaints or litigation down the road. Exceeding the minimum now can shield you from additional modifications under a more stringent update in the future.
Check these commonly overlooked areas to make sure you’re protected for the long term:
- Routes and circulation paths: The path might look big enough, but don’t forget that it must be free of protruding objects like lavatories and hand dryers. “If there’s insufficient space allowed for the accessible route, there’s little that can be done to correct it, though relocation of fixtures or accessories might be possible,” note Tom Eberhardy, manufacturing engineer, and Dale W. Gallmann, manager, of fixture manufacturer Bradley Corp’s Corporate Codes and Standards Compliance division.
- Changing trends: Manual wheelchairs have long been considered a template to judge accessibility, Gettelman says. However, motorized wheelchairs and scooters are gaining popularity, so it’s wise to make sure your washroom offers more space than currently required.
Also consider how restroom door trends have changed. Open entrances are gaining popularity, notably in airports, Gettelman says. These not only benefit people with mobility impairments, they also improve hygiene by presenting fewer surfaces to touch.
- Reach ranges: Soap and towel dispensers mounted over lavatories can present a problem to those with limited reach. Consider a hand dryer to accommodate those who have difficulty pulling paper towels.
Automatic flush valves and touchless faucets and dispensers cut down on waste in addition to eliminating the need to operate handles. Like hands-free entrances, patrons are likely to appreciate this hygienic approach, disabled or not.
“The auto-on/auto-off function really helps control dispensing, which saves money and reduces waste,” Gettelman explains. “People also don’t like to go into public washrooms and touch surfaces other people have touched. Sustainability and hygiene benefit everyone.”
Janelle Penny (email@example.com) is associate editor