Written by Owen Mclean.
Accessible WC rooms are designed to make toileting as easy as possible for those with physical disabilities; yet many (or most!) ‘Accessible’ public toilets comply with neither Part M of the Building Regulations nor British Standard BS 8300-2009. Far too many are difficult to use and can even pose a serious threat to the safety of the user.
At Dolphin Solutions we understand the importance of creating inspirational, accessible washrooms that are a pleasure to use. In a recent discussion with David Spooner, BS 8300 committee member, David said he honestly can’t remember seeing a fully Part M compliant disabled toilet – and he’s seen a few thousand!
In fact many so called ‘Accessible’ toilets make toileting more difficult for users rather than helping. So it’s prompted me to give some top tips and best practice for designing the perfect accessible washroom. I hope it’s helpful for anyone planning a project where an accessible washroom is required.
Layout is key
It is vital that there is sufficient manoeuvring space in the WC room to accommodate wheelchair users; 1.5m x 2.2m should be regarded as the minimum. It is recommended that the door opens outwards, so long as this does not obstruct emergency routes. Door furniture must be operable by people with limited dexterity or strength and the colour of hardware should contrast with the door for easy recognition.
The common height of a wheelchair is 480mm above the floor level. In order to aid wheelchair users in transferring to the WC, a special accessible toilet should be installed with a height of 480mm and length of 750mm, as required by Part M of the Building Regulations. The flush lever for the toilet should be fitted on the side of transfer (the same side as the hinged grab rail), to allow users to flush the WC using a hand, elbow or other part of the body.
The washbasin should be located close to the toilet, with the tap fitted to the nearest corner to the toilet for users to wash hands whilst seated on the WC.
Sanitary bins should be provided and be positioned in the space between the toilet and wall. Another disposal bin should also be provided, ideally close to the wash hand basin (see the attached layout diagram).
Emergency alarm pull cords are vital and should be fitted near to the toilet with two red bangles, one at 100mm and the other at 800mm-1000mm above the floor level. Emergency cords should hang freely and not be tied to anything, not even the grab rail!
Colour is more important than you think
Grab rails should be fitted around the washroom to offer extra support to users. A fold down rail is required next to the toilet to aid wheelchair transfer, and should be easy to pull down from a seated position. Rails should contrast with the background wall colour by a minimum of 30 LRV (Light Reflectance Value) points to aid users with visual impairments.
Although accessible washrooms must comply with Part M of the Building Regulations, they can and should be designed to look fresh and inspiring. Accessible washrooms should look clean and streamlined with consistency in fixtures and colour schemes giving a sense of luxury and style.
Accessories can help with maintenance and hygiene
Dispensers should also contrast with the background wall to assist those who are visually impaired. A toilet tissue dispenser should be fitted as opposed to a toilet roll holder, so paper can be dispensed with a single hand.
Infrared taps, soap dispensers and hand dryers are increasingly popular as touch-free operation improves hygiene. They are also easy to use as there is no lever or push button to operate. It is recommended that a mirror is located inside the washroom, ideally a long mirror on the opposite wall to the basin. This enables users to tidy themselves before leaving the washroom and can be used from either seated or standing position.
Take a look at our Ease collection
At Dolphin, we have designed and created a range of accessible washroom fittings, including fully-compliant complete room sets which help to create the perfect, compliant accessible washroom.
Our Dolphin Ease collection has been designed to our usual exacting standards, to make it simple to meet the requirements of Document M and BS8300, whilst creating a washroom that’s easy on the eye and a pleasure to use.
Imagery, drawings and BIM models are available to download from our website at the click of a button