Designing Accessible Washrooms

By Brian Ford, Specification Manager, Dolphin Solutions

One in five people in the UK has a disability. Workplaces and public spaces have the responsibility of ensuring that there are suitable accessible washroom facilities available for staff, visitors and customers. Whilst fully accessible washrooms require more accessories to make them fit for use, there is no reason that the washroom can’t be equally as striking as the building’s other facilities and match the same standards as the rest of the building.

When designing an accessible washroom, to ensure that you are complying with Document Part M regulations or BS8300 2010, there are a number of considerations which need to be taken into account.

Firstly, it’s no good creating a beautifully functional washroom if it’s inaccessible. There needs to be adequate space for manoeuvring outside the bathroom door, 1.5m x 1.5m is the minimum. Ideally, the door should open outwards and be light enough to be opened and operated with a clenched fist.

Inside the washroom

Once you are inside the washroom, which should measure at least 2200mm x 1500mm, it needs to be visually clear and easy to use. Designers and architects must use Light Reflectance Value (LRV) ratings to ensure there is a good visual contrast between various elements of the building, including doorways, fixtures and fittings. Colours are rated on a scale of 0 to 100, with black being 0 and white being 100.

Guidelines state that the LRV of the wall should be 30 points different from that of the floor and the ceiling, whilst the LRV of the door furniture should be 15 points different from that of the door to be compliant. Chrome plated accessories for example, tend to reflect the background colour of the surroundings and can in some instances make grab rails more difficult for the partially sighted to see. A satin finish or solid colour are the preferred options. Toilet seats must also have a colour contrast e.g. a white floor with a blue toilet seat.

A user-friendly washroom

When looking at an accessible washroom, there is much more to the placement of the toilet, sink and accessories than is immediately obvious. For example, the sink unit must be placed close enough to the toilet so that users can wash and dry their hands whilst seated on the toilet, making it more accessible and easy to use for wheelchair users. A hand dryer and hand towel dispenser must also be near to the sink for this reason, and the use of both hand drying options is recommended to suit varying needs of accessible washroom users.

A tap that can be operated using a clenched fist is important. A touch free sensor tap is an acceptable alternative which saves water and energy and helps reduce cross contamination. Toilet roll and soap dispensers must also be placed in a prominent location and easy to use for people with the use of only one hand.

Government guidelines provide an interesting overview of a scenario highlighting the importance of washroom layout. To fully understand the difficulty of an awkwardly arranged washroom, try the following: “Whilst sitting on a chair, lift your legs off the ground, stretch your arms out in front of you and see how far you can reach forward without losing your balance. You will find it is not very far.”

The usability of accessories can sometimes be overlooked, however if products are considered in a different way, a number of alternative uses can be identified. Shelving for colostomy bags is a good example – guidelines state that a shelf must be installed for colostomy bags, however if there is an exposed cistern in place, the top of this may also be used as a shelf.

Top tips for staying stylish

Accessible washroom facilities can be equally as contemporary and stylish as other washroom facilities. Here are some essential tips to keep front of mind when designing or updating an accessible washroom:

  • There is no need to stick to plain white fittings. Washroom fittings come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes so there is plenty of opportunity to make the most of the varying ranges available to make the final finish stylish.
  • Streamlined accessible washrooms can be achieved by being clever about how washroom accessories are used. Doubling the use of certain fittings can save on space and money, whilst still looking great. For example, there needs to be a shelf adjacent to the door where a wheelchair user can place a bag.
    A wall mounted waste paper bin can be useful in this instance as they can double up as a shelf, assuming the hole for used towels is at the front of the bin and not on top.
  • It’s essential to ensure that washroom accessories such as grab rails, in addition to the toilet and sink, are positioned and installed at the correct height to meet with building standards.
  • Choosing options that are easier to clean such as roseless grab rails will keep the washroom looking smart for longer.

For more information, visit: www.dolphinsolutions.co.uk

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