How to Make a Small Bathroom Handicap Accessible

July 26, 2023

Homeowners looking to stay in their home as they age often wonder how to make a small bathroom handicap accessible. Also, it’s vital to consider this information if you’re moving an aging parent or other relative into the home! Installing a few simple grab bars is often insufficient for ensuring safety for those with mobility or other health issues.

How to make a small bathroom handicap accessible:

  • Note ADA requirements

  • Consider your individual needs and comfort

  • Work with a contractor for larger projects

  • Ensure you maintain or adjust those updates over time

If you’re interested in how to make a small bathroom handicap accessible, keep reading! Also, don’t hesitate to ask your family physician for added guidelines. He or she can provide excellent advice for ensuring safety when using the bathroom. Additionally, a bathroom remodeling contractor near you can ensure quality installations as well!


how to make a small bathroom handicap accessible

Important Tips on How to Make a Small Bathroom Handicap Accessible

First, consider that homeowners are not required to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements. However, these guidelines ensure that a bathroom is accessible to people with disabilities.

Following these rules allows anyone to use the facilities comfortably and safely no matter their physical challenges. To make a small bathroom handicap accessible, consider some basic ADA requirements:

Door Width

Ensure that the bathroom door is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. The minimum required clear width for an ADA-compliant bathroom door is 32 inches. It should also have no more than a half-inch lip or ledge.

Toilet Height

The toilet seat should be between 17 and 19 inches above the floor to accommodate people with different abilities. This higher toilet alleviates pressure on the back and joints when transferring onto the seat.

Grab Bars

Install grab bars near the toilet and inside the shower or bathtub. These bars provide support and stability for individuals with mobility issues. To meet ADA requirements, they should be installed at 42 inches high on the side of the toilet and 36 inches high on the rear wall.

Sink Height

The sink should have an open space underneath it large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. The height of the sink should be 34 inches above the floor, with clearance beneath for a wheelchair. Also, note that a sloped sink is easier for wheelchair users to access.

Faucet Controls

Use lever-style faucet handles that are easy to operate with one hand, rather than knobs. Ensure those handles are large enough for a wheelchair user to access easily.

These changes might seem challenging for a smaller bathroom. However, remember that a contractor can often expand the room’s footprint. For instance, they might widen the doorway by cutting into a closet in the next room. Relocating certain fixtures can also allow them to create added space in a small bathroom.


new shower remodel with a shower chair

Consider Your Individual Needs and Comfort in a Handicap Accessible Bathroom

In addition to ADA regulations, consider your individual needs and comfort when creating a handicap accessible bathroom:

  • Mount mirrors at a height that allows wheelchair users and individuals of different heights to see themselves easily.

  • Use lever-style door handles that are easier to operate than traditional knobs, especially for individuals with limited hand strength or dexterity.

  • Ensure there is enough clear floor space in the bathroom to accommodate a wheelchair or mobility device. This means having enough space for a person to approach, transfer to, and use fixtures without obstacles in the way.

  • Choose slip-resistant flooring to reduce the risk of accidents, particularly in wet areas like the shower. However, ensure flooring options like area rugs don’t create a tripping hazard!

  • If possible, provide a roll-in shower with a level threshold, allowing easy wheelchair access. Walk-in showers are also easier for those with joint pain or balance issues. Not having to step over a tub wall reduces the risk of slip and fall accidents.

  • Consider installing a fold-down shower bench to allow individuals to sit while showering. These are excellent for bariatric patients, those with balance issues, and anyone with breathing disorders.

  • Don’t forget about storage and items in the bathroom used every day. Ensure that any storage areas or shelves in the bathroom are reachable by individuals in wheelchairs or with limited mobility.

handicap wheelchair accessible

Improving Wheelchair Access to the Bathroom

  1. Clear Obstacles: Remove any unnecessary furniture, storage units, or items that restrict movement within the bathroom.

  2. Minimize Clutter: Keep the bathroom organized and clutter-free to allow for a wider turning area.

  3. Compact Fixtures: Choose space-efficient fixtures such as wall-mounted sinks and toilets to create more open floor space.

  4. Sliding or Pocket Doors: Consider replacing traditional swing doors with sliding or pocket door to eliminate door swing obstruction.

  5. Rounded Corners: If possible, round the corners of furniture and fixtures to prevent sharp angles that might hinder wheelchair movement.

  6. Floating Vanity: Install a floating vanity or wall hung sink to free up floor space and improve maneuverability.

  7. Optimal Placement: Position fixtures like the sink, toilet, and shower in a way that maximizes open space for turning.

  8. Use of Mirrors: Strategically placed mirrors can give the illusion of a larger space and help wheelchair users navigate better.

  9. Compact Accessories: Choose smaller accessories like towel racks and toilet paper holders that don't protrude into the path.

  10. Consider Layout: If renovating, consult with an accessibility expert to optimize the layout for the best possible turn radius.

Work With a Contractor for Larger Projects

Working with a home renovation contractor for any project is an excellent choice. However, it’s vital to consult with a pro when creating a handicap accessible bathroom! Consider some reasons why you should leave larger projects and installations to a pro:

  • Professional contractors have extensive knowledge and experience in handicap bathroom renovations. In turn, they can offer valuable insights and solutions for your specific needs.

  • A skilled contractor can create a detailed renovation plan. A well-thought-out plan helps avoid delays and keeps the project on track.

  • Contractors have established relationships with suppliers and vendors. They can access high-quality materials and fixtures at competitive prices, saving you time and money compared to finding these resources on your own. This includes handicap-accessible items such as grab bars and elevated toilets.

  • Bathroom renovations often require permits and compliance with local building codes. A professional contractor handles the paperwork and approvals, ensuring a project is up to code.

  • Contractors have the expertise needed to ensure quality work that lasts! They can help you avoid costly mistakes and rework by getting it right the first time.

Remember to Maintain or Adjust Those Updates Over Time

To ensure your small bathroom stays handicap accessible, ensure you maintain those updates over time. Check grab bar connectors and tighten screws where needed. Also, note that tile surfaces wear down after several years. In turn, you might need to replace the flooring, to ensure proper traction.

Also, it’s good to check with everyone using the room on needed updates. For instance, someone’s physical condition might deteriorate over time. Consequently, they might need a shower seat or even a walk-in tub. Lowering the showerhead and installing a handheld fixture can also make it easier for them to shower properly.


bathroom accessibility improvements

What Makes a Bathroom Handicap Accessible?

A handicap accessible bathroom, also known as an ADA-compliant bathroom, provides equal access to individuals with disabilities or mobility challenges. These bathrooms adhere to the guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design.

Commercial property owners are often required to provide ADA-compliant restrooms. However, a residential bathroom doesn’t need to follow these same standards, as said. On the other hand, following some basics ensures a safe bathroom even for wheelchair users or those with other disabilities.

Additionally, note if anyone in the family needs a wider doorframe, for safer entry and exiting. As an example, someone using a walker might find it difficult to get through a standard bathroom doorway without bumping their hands along the frame!

Also, anyone with arthritis might find it a struggle to work standard knobs on the faucet, shower, and doors. Switching to handles ensures easier use of these features in your home.

A Word From Our Renovation Crew

Gold Heart Homes is happy to help explain how to make a small bathroom handicap accessible. You can also call our Kansas City home renovation contractors when you’re ready for expert services. We offer quality remodeling work at budget-friendly prices!


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