Designing a Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom

There are universal guidelines that must be followed when designing a bathroom with access for the disabled. These guidelines suggest the height of the toilets, sinks, showers, switches and the amount of space it takes to maneuver a wheelchair in the space. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 can be found at Many products are available to create a handicapped bathroom that’s stylish and functional.


  1. Make a list of your needs and desires. Check magazines and cut out pictures of products you want to include in the bathroom. Visit websites that offer wheelchair accessible products. Choose products you want to use in your bathroom and print their images and information.
  2. Create a folder to store your ideas and images. Use tabs to separate the types of products such as shower, vanity unit, floor, toilet and accessories. Put the pictures and product information print-outs in the folder.
  3. Draw a plan of the bathroom on graph paper. Draw the location of the bathtub or shower, toilet, sink and vanity. Keep a minimum open floor space of 30 by 48 inches to accommodate a wheelchair. A wheelchair will need a space of at least 60 inches in diameter to make a 360 degree turn. This allows sufficient space to maneuver the wheelchair with freedom in the bathroom.
  4. Plan a space for a door that is at least 32 inches wide, but preferably 36 inches. Choose a sliding or pocket door to allow more space in the bathroom.
  5. Design the sink so the bottom is open to allow the wheelchair to fit under it. Leave 30 to 34 inches of clearance under the sink. Put bars for towels to a “reachable distance” to someone sitting.
  6. Plan your bathtub or shower so you’d be able to enter on foot. Design a shower seat or leave room for you to use a wheelchair in the shower.
  7. Use mirrors designed to tilt, so that you can see while seated.

Tips & Warnings

  • Follow the guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • Plan to reinforce wooden walls to install handrails.
  • Make everything achievable while sitting.
  • Plan for a toilet about 18 inches tall.
  • Select lever-style door handles.
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