Public washrooms must by law provide for all types of disabled users; they include the blind (who usually have a guide dog which must be accommodated), people in wheelchairs or crutches, learning-challenged individuals, and those who are outside of childhood but need changing facilities. Accommodation must also be made for sufficient space for a carer. Patrons with special needs are a larger portion of the population than most people think, and with expectations that toilets will be available, many more of these users are venturing out in places where washrooms are expected.
Some basic guidelines include:
- Provide toilets on the ground level of public buildings in a location with the most direct route available
- Don’t mark the facilities as disabled.? They are accessible.
- Consider the number of users when planning the number of accessible stalls.
- Don’t forget to make sure the corridors and doors in the path to the facility are also accessible.
- Keep the entire path obstacle free and the facility itself litter free.
Most guides to designing public facilities of all types now include specific directions for the doors, signage, needed space, type of toilets, special levers and handles, hand washing sinks, grab rails, and even alarms. Not only must the hand sinks be within reach, but the taps must be as well, and sensor taps are the best option. Of course the first need is for everything to be within reach, including baby changing stations and waste bins. For those in a wheelchair, just standing up to use the urinal is a major challenge. All shelving and appliances must have rounded edges and corners, and lighting must be available at all times. Since many designers are including baby changing facilities in the special needs washrooms, these must be mounted flush to the wall so as not to impede free movement of wheelchairs.
Going Beyond Just the Rules in Design
Because many accessible washrooms are not as accessible as they should be, an installed and reachable alarm is imperative. (Of course, there must be someone to monitor it!) A paper providing some insight for washroom designers about not-so-obvious problems is Building Regulations in Practice Accessible Toilets (), which outlines problems that are not addressed even when British Standard BS 8300-2009 is followed. Many designers do not realize how important location of handles can be after all, not everyone can use their hands. Even those that have use of both hands may not have much strength, and any design needs to consider this.
While it may not seem a real need, a mirror hung so that a seated person can see it is very much appreciated. Another item like this is a reachable shelf for a colostomy bag. Making the door handles and locks really stand out will be a big help for visually impaired patrons. Some visually impaired patrons may not discern all-white fixtures against a white wall, so provide some visual clues. A water tap at the corner of the wash basin, closest to the toilet, will be needed as well.
Consideration must be made for special needs users with all kinds of needed supplies. These include vending machines (feminine sanitary supplies are really important),, soap and hand sanitizer dispensers, as well as automatic hot air hand dryers. As the number of helper dogs has increased, so too has the need for a place for their needs for relieving their waste.
One thing that can make use of the toilet much easier for disabled users is to supply an easy-to-reach toilet tissue dispenser instead of providing a roll of toilet paper. Many of these patrons will only use one hand to retrieve supplies and this is much easier for them. Select appliances that do not require much force to operate.
To find more information about providing independence to disabled persons go to the website for The Access Association atand the resource page for designing for people with disabilities at .
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