Public toilets and restrooms can present accessibility challenges for people with disabilities, for example those in wheelchairs. Stalls may not be able to fit a wheelchair, and transferring between the wheelchair and the toilet seat may pose a challenge. Accessible toilets are designed to address these issues by providing more space and bars for users to grab and hold during transfers.
Some countries have requirements for public restrooms to ensure accessibility. In the United States, most new construction for public use must be built to ADA standards for accessibility. In the United Kingdom, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 requires organizations and businesses to make adjustments to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Recommendations appearing in legal requirements
The following recommendations are becoming more common in public toilet facilities, as part of a trend towards universal design:
- a wheelchair-height toilet, to help the user on and off the toilet, with handles (grab bars);
- an emergency alarm, in the form of a red cord that reaches the ground, connected to a buzzer and a flashing red light;
- a wheelchair-height sink and hand dryer;
- wheelchair-width doors leading to it, allowing sufficient space for a wheelchair when a door is open.
Accessible toilets need larger floor space than other cubicles to allow space for a wheelchair to maneuver. This space is also useful for people who are not necessarily wheelchair users, but still need physical support from someone else. A wheelchair-height changing table is also recommended, but remains rarely available. Accessible changing tables are low and accessible to a wheelchair user, and long enough for a caretaker to change an older child or adult with a disability.
Examples of accessible design
Overhead mobile support bars in an accessible public toilet in Frankfurt, Germany.
An accessible toilet design for a school, with support bars and a moveable wood seat. Tanzania.
A public toilet diaper-changing table, United States.
- United Nations Enable Programme
- UK Charity Mencap campaign "Changing places, changing lives" www.changing-places.org.