ADA Compliance in Restrooms

ADA compliance in restrooms is easy to achieve for business owners who understand the requirements. If you’re a new business looking to set up a physical store (or anyone who wants more information about ADA compliant restrooms and establishments), this article will help you get started.

ADA Compliance in Restrooms: What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law passed in 1990. The law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and public and private places that are open to the public. The goal of the ADA is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities given to individuals on the basis of age, sex, race, religion and national origin. The ADA guarantees that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities in public employment, transportation, state and local government services, telecommunications and accommodations.


An amendment to the ADA was signed into law (ADAAA) in 2008 and took effect on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA significantly changed the definition of ‘disability.’ These changes apply to all titles of the ADA, including Title I, Title II and Title III. Title III includes private entities considered to be places of public accommodation, Tile II refers to state and local government activities, and Title I covers employment practices.

The ADA of 1990 includes guidelines for building ADA compliant restrooms. These requirements must be met for public and commercial bathrooms. They can also be used as a general guide for constructing safe and accessible establishments when ADA compliance is not mandatory. In addition to the ADA compliant restrooms, business owners must also meet additional requirements that may be set by the local code authority.

ADA Compliant Restrooms Dimensions

Dimensions are important when building ADA compliant restrooms. These dimensions are designed for accessibility, safety and ease of use for individuals with disabilities and limited range of motion. Detailed information and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) are available on the U.S. Access Board website.


To be ADA compliant, doors should open with minimal force and have handles that are easy to grab with one hand. Doorways should be at least 32 inches wide with the door open at 90 degrees.

Door Latches

Door latches and other parts must be operable with one hand, using less than five pounds of pressure. Door latches must not need tight grasping, twisting or pinching of the wrist to operate.

Rotating Space

A single wheelchair must be able to freely rotate inside an ADA compliant bathroom. This requires a clear floor space of at least 60 inches in diameter to allow for a 180-degree turn. In some cases, open space under a fixture can supplement the clear floor space to meet the minimum requirement.


For dispensers that protrude from the wall in restrooms and toilet stalls or anything that a person might need to reach should be a maximum of 48 inches from the finished floor. Toilet tissue must be within arm’s reach and the outlet of the tissue dispenser must be between 24 inches minimum and 42 inches maximum from the back wall and at least 18 inches above the finished floor. The ADA guideline defines “easily within arm’s reach” as within 7-9 inches from the front of the bowl and at least 15 inches above the finished floor or 48 inches maximum.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are hand rails that are used for support when moving around a room. They are not used for hanging towels, and towel bars are not intended to be used as grab bars. An ADA compliant grab bar must be fully anchored and have a smooth surface for easy grabbing. The bar itself must be 1.25 to 1.5 inches in diameter, at least 36 inches long on the rear wall or 42 inches on the side wall and must be installed between 33 to 36 inches above the floor. At least 1.5 inches of space must separate the bar from the wall surface. The bar must have round edges and no exposed ends. It must be able to withstand at least 250 pounds of pressure.


At least one lavatory must be present in each bathroom. To be ADA compliant, the lavatory must be at least 17 inches from the back wall and not be installed higher than 34 inches. Knee clearance must be 27 inches high, 30 inches wide and 11 to 25 inches deep. Countertop lavatories should be installed no more than 2 inches from the front edge of the counter. In addition, there must be clear floor space and insulated pipes under the sink.


Faucets should be operated by a lever or controlled by push, touch or electronics. Individuals must be able to use faucets with one hand without needing to exert more than five pounds of force to operate the faucet. The user also shouldn’t need to grasp, pinch, or twist the wrist when using the faucet.

Water Closets

Water closets must be 17 to 19 inches from the floor to the top of the toilet seat. Flush valves shouldn’t need tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.

Hand Dryers

ADA compliant bathrooms must have touch free or motion activated hand dryers with sensors that are 38 to 48 inches above the finished floor. The hand dryer itself must be accessible for right- and left-handed users.


Mirrors must be mounted with the bottom edge of the reflective surface at a maximum of 40 inches above the floor with the top edge at least 74 inches from the floor. If it’s not possible to install a mirror 40 inches above the floor, a full-length mirror fulfills the ADA requirement.

Trash Cans

Recessed trash receptacles or a combination of paper towel dispenser and trash bin is recommended. Trash bins on the floor are barriers to someone in a wheelchair when reaching for a dispenser mounted above it.

Toilet Stalls

Toilet stalls must be at least 60 inches wide and have enough space to fit a single wheelchair in front of or parallel to the toilet. Horizontal grab bars must be installed behind the toilet and on the nearest wall or partition, whichever is nearest. There must be at least 30 x 48 inches of clear space around the toilet to fit a single wheelchair.

The clear space must be designed for either a forward or parallel approach to the toilet. Parts of the clear space can be under fixtures to meet the minimum requirement, as long as there is enough space for the legs to move around freely when the individual is seated in a wheelchair. The toilet seat must be 17 to 19 inches above the finished floor. The flush control must be on the open side of the toilet with the clearest floor space and installed no higher than 44 inches above the floor.


ADA compliant urinals should be wall mounted or stall type at a maximum of 17 inches from the floor.

Ensuring ADA Compliance in Restrooms

Working with an ADA expert before construction will save you a lot of headaches, as compliance is a civil rights issue and may be out of the purview of engineers, architects and contractors regardless of how knowledgeable they are about building code.


Want to know more about ADA-compliant restroom fixtures? Don’t hesitate to contact us today!