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Distancing in Restrooms? Remember Accessibility.

This post is sponsored by Bobrick Washroom Equipment, Inc.

We have blogged and posted extensively this year about the plight of individuals dealing with our new COVID reality while quarantining, especially how they are coping in unsupportive home environments. However, many offices and public places have remained open and functioning and we all continue to work on plans for new and renovated non-residential structures.

For the past several months, design professionals have been contending with evolving design expectations in the COVID-19 era. In this context, an emerging challenge is how can restrooms be designed for optimized space, traffic flow and physical distancing without compromising accessibility?

A New Space Planning Paradigm in Restrooms

In the COVID-19 era, a number of design strategies have emerged to help reduce occupancy and increase physical distance between occupants.

According to Alan Gettelman, Vice President of External Affairs at Bobrick, design and building professionals today are broadly reevaluating density and traffic flow assumptions. “Restroom layouts are being fundamentally reconsidered,” says Gettelman. “Shared, non-gendered handwashing stations are helping enforce hygiene norms and behaviors. Touchless products are seen as essential amenities. Steps are being taken to minimize queuing and gathering.”

Gettelman notes the following space planning strategies, which may soon emerge as restroom design best practices in the COVID-19 era and beyond:

Maintain 6' physical distancing spacing. Add 6' distance floor markings outside of the restroom, and in front of lavatories, toilets and urinals.

Remove or block open exit/entry doors. Eliminate germ transfer points on door handles and plates that must be cleaned daily.

Reduce restroom capacity by blocking-off, alternating, adjoining lavatories, toilet compartments and urinals.

Add urinal screens between lavatories above countertop surface to 84” height that extend full depth of the countertop to achieve 6’ physical distancing spacing at lavatories.

Touchless Products

In today’s environment, touchless accessories deliver the dual benefits of supporting hygiene by reducing touchpoints and supporting accessibility. ADA standards require that restroom accessories be operable with no tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist, and with less than five pounds (22.2 N) of force. Most automatic, sensor-operated accessories, such as soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers, are preferred for hygiene and satisfy this accessibility requirement.

Even fixtures and hardware that are not strictly touchless can selected to optimize accessibility and hygiene. For example, some toilet compartment door latches—such as those used on Bobrick’s PRIVADA® Cubicles—operate without grasping the latch with fingers, and can be manually operated using the elbow, forearm or side of fist.

Maintaining Accessibility

While hygiene has become a primary design requirement, accessibility should still remain a top priority, says Gettelman. “Restroom layout, product operation and location must comply with applicable accessibility standards’ requirements for the building’s location and jurisdiction per ADA, ICC/ANSI A117.1 or individual state requirements,” he notes.

As modified restroom layouts may be impacted by hygiene objectives, design and building professionals should pay particular attention to the following requirements:

• Entrances and exits laid out to minimize congestion and for universal access. This result can be supported by removing doors or blocking doors open.

• Passageways and access aisles should still be a minimum 42″ to 48″ wide

• Limit leading edge of protruding objects into circulation routes to 4″ maximum between 27″ and 80″ above the floor. Use fully recessed restroom accessories to minimize protruding objects.

• Consider increased wheelchair turning spaces for oversize wheelchairs.

• Provide 30″ x 48″ clear floor space centered at each accessory, plumbing fixture.

• Lavatory, toilet compartment and urinal dimensional layouts must comply.

• Where 6+ toilets and urinals in one restroom, provide Ambulatory Accessible Compartment in addition to the Wheelchair Accessible Compartment.

• Baby Changing Station location should not block access to accessible accessories and plumbing fixtures.

To learn more about the intersection of hygiene and accessibility in commercial restrooms, watch Bobrick’s expert panel discussion and accredited AIA/HSW Continuing Education (CE) course, “Revisiting Restroom Hygiene and Planning.”

For touchless product solutions, download Bobrick’s new Touchless Accessories brochure.

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