Aug 302011


Along with bathtubs and showers, sinks are an important part of a handicap accessible bathroom. The proper sink allows people who are physically challenged or in a wheelchair to take care of their basic cleaning habits such as brushing their teeth, washing their faces and hands, and shaving.

Pedestal Sink

One type of handicap accessible sink is the pedestal sink or lavatory. This visually appealing sink has a thin pedestal base below the sink bowl. The pedestal should be thin enough so that it can fit between the wheelchair users legs. A thin pedestal also allows a person in a wheelchair to get close to the sink.

This type base also keeps the water pipes hidden. With hidden pipes there is no danger of knees or legs getting burned by hot water pipes.

Pedestal sinks are available in many different colors, allowing them to blend easily into the design of your bathroom.

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has standards for the height of a handicap pedestal sink. To be complaint, the ADA recommends that that the sink should be no more than 34 inches high. The knee space under the sink should be at least 27 inches high and 19 inches deep, with a width of 30 inches. The sink itself should be about 6 1/2 inches deep.

Obviously, there should be no vanity under the sink that a wheelchair could bump into. You should also allow about 4 feet of turning space in front of the sink so the user can more easily roll up to the sink.

Based on the size and color, the cost of a handicap pedestal sink can range between $200 and $400. Designer sinks can cost more.

Wall Hung Sink

Another option for the handicap bathroom is a wall hung sink. These are sinks that have been elongated so the bowl of the sink comes out further than on a typical sink. This allows the person in the wheelchair to roll up to and under the sink in order to use it.

Because the pipes may be exposed, they should be placed further back than on a normal sink. That’s so the person in a wheelchair won’t burn their knees or legs on the hot water pipe. Another option is to insulate the pipes so that any hot surfaces are covered.



Sink faucets should also be more convenient for the handicapped person. That means a person should be able to operate it with one hand and it should, according to ADA standards, “not require grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.” (See 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design)

ADA accessible faucets can include the following types.

  • Lever operated
  • Push in
  • Electronically operated

Also, it shouldn’t take more than five pounds of pressure to operate these faucets.

The combination of an ADA compliant sink and faucet can be a useful and visually appealing addition to the handicap bathroom.

For more information about handicap accessible bathrooms, read Creating the Handicap Accessible Bathroom.

Video Version

Jun 042010

The article Creating the Handicap-Accessible Bathroom described modifying bathroom entrances, flooring, and toilets to create a barrier-free environment. The point was to create an unrestricted, comfortable environment for both disabled and non-disabled people.

Next, let’s consider what you can do about some other common bathroom elements: showers and bathtubs, sinks, faucets and mirrors, and grab bars.

Showers and Bathtubs

There’s no reason someone with disabilities shouldn’t be able to enjoy a shower. Shower enclosures are available that can accommodate the user with disabilities. Sometimes called a walk-in shower, the ideal accessible shower stall would be at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) square. The opening should be at least 3 feet (.914 meters) wide so a wheelchair or shower commode can get in. The entrance should not have a barrier or lip the user needs to climb over. The floor may have a slight downward slope to allow water to drain to the middle.

Inside the shower you can use a freestanding shower seat for the disabled person to sit on. These shower chairs, in either molded plastic or wood are available in models that can hold heavier people. Instead of a shower seat you can use a shower transfer bench. These units let the person move from their wheelchair to a seat which slides into place inside the shower.

Shower controls should be low enough for a seated person to reach them.

A handheld showerhead, with flexible hose, should be no higher than 48 inches (122 cm) above the floor so it can be easily reached. You can also put the showerhead on a vertical bar which allows its height to be adjusted. This means the shower can be used by people both sitting down and standing up.

If a bathtub is going to be in a barrier-free bathroom, it should have a wide tubside seat that will allow someone to sit on and move themselves into the tub. Sliding transfer benches are also available for tubs. These let the handicapped person transfer from their wheelchair to a seat that then lets the person slide into the open tub area. A freestanding shower seat can also be placed inside the tub.

A better tub option might be a walk-in tub . Most of these are built with a small 2-inch high step that many physically challenged people can get over. They can then sit in the seat inside the tub and be surrounded by water. Walk in tubs also take up less space than the standard 5-foot long tub.

Sinks, Faucets, and Mirrors

Sinks in the accessible bathroom should have floor space open in front of them. This will allow a person in a wheelchair to roll under it to reach the sink. Be sure that if there is a hot water pipe leading to the sink it is insulated to prevent burns.

The faucets on the sink should be a lever type or a single handle. If the lever is ADA compliant, it will take less than five pounds of pressure to operate. For extra safety, the faucets should have anti-scald valves to prevent the hot water from causing burns.

There are many options for disabled bathroom mirrors. A full height mirror mounted at the appropriate height is one possibility. You can also mount one of those flexible mirrors that pull out at the right height for a seated person. Another option is installing a mirror that tilts down above the sink. Mirrors are also available that have a pulley system and crank. The mirror normally hangs flat against the bathroom wall until it is needed by someone who is seated. Then, by turning the crank the person can angle the mirror down to where they can see themselves.

Grab Bars

Finally, grab bars should be located throughout any barrier-free bathroom. Grab bars should be on the shower and bathtub walls to help people get in and out of the tub or shower. Grab bars should also be available on both sides of the toilet. Some toilet grab bars can also be swung out of the way when not in use.

Newer style looped grab bars are also available for use on both sides of the toilet. A shorter person can use the bottom loop while a taller person can use the upper ones.


Physical limitations sometimes make it difficult for some people to use what we consider “normal” bathrooms. By using modern accessibility options you can create a stylish bathroom that will be accessible to all.