Accessibility Considerations

Kitchens and bathrooms often present obstacles to the elderly or people with disabilities. A growing list of plumbing products engineered for easier use plus some simple design changes can create accessible kitchens and baths in any home.

Available resources

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1991 establishes accessibility standards for commercial and public facilities. Some of these regulations pertain directly to plumbing fixtures and the design of bathrooms and kitchens.

The ADA standards are not required for private residences, but they are a valuable guide. Visit the ADA Web site at The local building department can review plans for kitchens and baths to ensure they are universally accessible.

Some plumbing companies carry a line of accessible products. Other companies specialize in ADA-approved sinks and other fixtures, which include those with pedal-operated controls.

Customize your plan

Make sure your layout and fixtures will be useful for everyone in your family for now and in the future. Whenever possible test a product or layout ahead of time to make sure it can be used easily by a person in a wheelchair or walker.

Install grab bars to enable a person to easily enter and exit an area. Locate a grab bar where someone can reach it in case of a slip or fall. Grab bars should be ADA-approved. Be sure to anchor them with screws driven deeply into studs.

Accessible Sink Specifications

In front of the sink, provide a clear area that is 48 inches by 30 inches. Test with a wheelchair to make sure the entry and turnaround area are large enough. Make sure it is possible for a person to wheel up to the sink, operate the handles, and reach the sink's drain plug.

The top of the sink should be no higher than 34 inches -- 2 inches lower than a standard countertop. Check for the height that works best; you may go as low as 28 inches.

Provide counter space for food preparation, with a countertop no higher than 34 inches and no cabinet below.

The area under the sink should be free of obstructions, such as electrical cords or a garbage disposal.

Planning an Accessible Kitchen

This sink has a specially designed enclosure below that covers all plumbing, electrical, and mechanical parts. If you install an ADA-approved unit, you will be assured easy access. A typical enclosure is made of vinyl. It is usually not possible to install a garbage disposal inside this type of unit. A one-touch faucet with a pullout sprayer often is preferred.

Accessible Bathroom Specifications

There should be a space that is at least 56 inches by 60 inches around a toilet. The space extending in one direction from the center of the toilet should be at least 42 inches.

There should be room to wheel into the bathroom and to move easily from one fixture to another. ADA-recommended clearances vary depending on the shape of the bathroom and the position of fixtures. Some typical dimensions are shown here.

A bathroom sink should have the same sort of accessibility as a kitchen sink.

Provide a stable, ADA-approved seat in a bathtub. Usually it's best to have a detachable handheld shower unit so someone can wash while sitting.

A shower usually provides easier access than a tub. However, the stall must be extra large -- at least 36 by 60 inches -- and must have a solid seat. A shower curtain is usually easier to operate than a shower door.

An Accessible Bathroom Sink

This sink has large, easy-to-use handles and roll-under space beneath.

Planning an Accessible Bathroom

This tub and shower unit has solid, well-placed grab bars, a stable and slip-resistant seat, and a handheld shower unit.


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