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The Accessible Restroom Compartment – A Room Within A Room

© Janis Kent, FAIA, Architect, CASp 2013, revised October 2018

Restrooms are one of the more difficult rooms to design having numerous specific requirements, similar to fitting pieces together of a large jig-saw puzzle. Solve one requirement and it is likely a new dimensional issue may arise. When we are talking about minimizing space as much as possible it adds another layer of complexity. I will just address the accessible toilet compartment within a multi-user toilet room and what needs to be included for new construction or alteration.

First of all, if we talk about the partition itself, you should be aware that if it goes down to the floor, the 60” minimum clear width inside of the stall needs to increase to 66”. This is many times overlooked but it is necessary. It is assumed that if the partition stops 9” above the floor there is enough space for toe clearance underneath and beyond the partition, making maneuvering in a wheelchair easier. The required length, on the other hand is dependent upon a number of factors.

  • The toilet fixture itself has a clear floor space of 60” wide by 56” deep if it is wall-hung or 59” deep if it is floor mounted – nothing, not even the door swing, can go into this space except the toilet fixture, although there are a number of wall mounted objects that can overhang the space
  • For an end door opening outwards CA requires an additional 48” clear in front of the toilet itself
  • For an end door opening inwards CA requires 48” in front of the toilet and an additional 36” in front of the toilet clear floor space
  • For a side door opening outwards CA requires 60” in front of the toilet
  • For a side door opening inwards CA requires 60” in front of the toilet and 36” in front of the toilet fixture clear floor space

So you can see by these requirements it is not possible to state a specific length for all accessible toilet compartments. It depends on whether the fixture is wall hung or floor mounted and what size the toilet fixture is, which can vary from about 26” to 31” deep. For a side opening door, if there is an adjacent stall, more length may be required to achieve the 18” pull strike side clearance or the 12” push side clearance. For end opening doors the space allocation is dependent upon approach and CA has slightly differing requirements than ADAS. (Overwhelmed yet?)

Related Article: Single User Toilet Rooms in California

Now let’s talk about the stall door itself which is located 4” maximum from the wall or partition on the hinge side and placed catty-cornered or diagonally across from the toilet. Doors have a clear width of 32”, but if your project is in California and the door is located on the long edge then it needs to increase to 34” clear. Stall doors also require to have the door clear floor space, a closer, door pulls on both sides at the correct height (just below the latch in CA), and a locking mechanism that is accessible. And some other items are required such as closing speed, operating force, kick plates, etc.

So far we have just talked about the compartment enclosure. There are requirements for the toilet fixture itself for seat height, location of flush valve and its operating force, and distance installed from an adjacent wall. There are requirements for the 2 grab bars which include overall length, distance from the centerline of the toilet, distance from the back wall and from the front of the toilet, not to mention the height above the finished floor which is measured to the top. The bar itself also has requirements for diameter, and clear distance above, below, and to the wall. And be sure there are no rough elements adjacent to the bars.

Accessories such as toilet paper dispensers, seat cover dispensers, coat hooks, and shelves all have their own dimensional requirements if they exist. Some people want to place a baby changing station inside the compartment but with all of the spatial requirements we have seen, the compartment would need to increase dramatically in size – probably not the best place for this accessory and not allowed in California.

The point of this article is to provide an overview of the complexity of requirements in restrooms. We have not even reviewed lavatories, urinals, signage, or other accessories. It is not easy if you want to get it all correct, particularly for altering existing restrooms with more limited space, or large restrooms locating ambulatory stalls. The best advice I can offer is, if you are dealing with numerous multi-user restrooms create a checklist of each item that needs to be considered whether it is at the drawing phase or at the completion of construction. Verify that dimensions are all appropriately marked as required with minimum, maximum, clear dimension, or above the finished floor. These do make a difference. And in California be sure to combine the requirements of ADAS with the California Building Codes.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.