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  • Writer's pictureKalyn Hill

Basic ADA (Wheelchair Accessible) Rules For Bathrooms


This is for residential guidelines based on the National Building Codes for accessibility. For more in-depth information on Building Code guidelines visit the International Code Council's website at There you can have access to building code and reference books to buy, becoming a member yourself of the ICC, or for testing information to get yourself certified in all ranges of building professionals.

I am currently studying to become a Certified National Building Code Examiner! Exciting!

Here are some very basic rules to follow when designing a wheelchair accessible bathroom.

Please note that this is very basic coverage for accessibility plans. The code books explain more in-depth guidelines for each topic covered below.


Ease of Access for Wheelchairs:

1) The minimum allowed width for a passway or doorway for a single wheelchair to maneuver is 2'-8". Ideally 3' would be best!

2) For hallways with doors on either side, the hallway should have a minimum width between doorways of 4'. Ideally 5' would be best!

Side Note: pocket doors and sliding barn doors are great for ease of access as they do not protrude into the space needed to maneuver around and are easier for handicap people to close behind them and open before them!

3) Minimum clear width allowed for two wheelchairs to pass is 5'.

4) The turning space for a wheelchair needs to be a 5' diameter space, with no fixtures within the set turning space.

For example: this bathroom floor plan shows the turning diameter with a dashed line. The bathtub and side shower walls do not enter within the designated 5' turning diameter. Note that the drain to the shower does enter within the turning diameter, but it does not obstruct the turning of a wheelchair, as it is in the floor flush to the tile.

Master Bath & Powder Room Combo Floor Plan by Khiller Designer

Toilet Space:

1) The minimum width allowed on either side of the toilet is 18". The floor plan above shows this specified at the "clear floor space at toilet" dashed line. The overall width of clear floor space needed is a minimum of 4'.

2) The minimum clear floor space needed from the wall behind the toilet to the front of the toilet is 56" minimum.

Note: This is depending on the approach area of the toilet. On my floor plan shown, the approach is from the right side of the toilet. Approaching the toilet from the very front of the fixture would need a clear floor space of 66" minimum.

There is more information on handrail height and on the height of the toilet allowed, however I'm not going to cover that. You can buy an ADA accessible toilet that already has all the specifications covered! You can find them at any larger home improvement store, like the Home Depo.

Sink Space:

1) Sinks have a clear floor space of a 30" minimum width. Then a 4' minimum length. This is from the drain pipe as the area where the drain comes down would be obstructing the "clear floor space".

2) There is a minimum allowance of 17" from the wall behind the sink to the edge of the sink. With a maximum of 19" from the drain hole to the front of the sink. This is specified for the reach of the handicap person to wash their hands easily.

Shower Space:

1) The smallest allowable shower stall is 36"x 36". The clear floor space for this is 36"minimum out from the entrance of the shower stall and 48" minimum clear space to either side of the shower stall. This is to assure the wheelchair user has enough space to easily turn and maneuver their body into the shower stall seat.

2) For a 30"x 60" shower stall and larger the clear floor space allowance is 36" out from the entrance again of the shower stall, but with a 60" minimum clear space to either side of the shower stall.

3) The shower seat height should be at 1'-6" off the shower floor to easily move from wheelchair to seat and vise versa.

4) The bottom of the control area (or the on/off shower switches) can be a maximum of 38" high. The top of the control area can be a maximum of 48" high. This is to not overextend a persons reach while in a wheelchair.

Shelving & Closets:

1) 21" maximum reach from the side of the wheelchair to the back of shelf or hanging rod in closet.

2) 48" high maximum reach to the top shelf or the top of a hanging rod.


That's all I'm covering in this blog for wheelchair accessible bathroom designing.

If you have any questions on what I covered or need help deciphering a code out of the handbook feel free to comment or message me at!

Also check out my other blog on What NOT to forget in Your Home Remodel or New Home with some useful tips!

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