ADA Height Requirements For Grab Bars By Toilet


Figure 29. Grab Bars By The Toilet.

Figure 29(a) Back Wall. A 36 inches (915 mm) minimum length grab bar, mounted 33-36 inches (840-915 mm) above the finish floor, is required behind the water closet. The grab bar must extend at least 12 inches (305 mm) from the centerline of the water closet toward the side wall and at least 24 inches (610 mm) from the centerline of the water closet toward the open side.

Figure 29(b) Side Wall. A 42 inches (1065 mm) minimum length grab bar is required on the side wall, spaced a maximum of 12 inches (305 mm) from the back wall and extending a minimum of 54 inches (1370 mm) from the back wall at a height of 33-36 inches (840-915 mm). The toilet paper dispenser shall be mounted below the grab bar at a minimum height of 19 inches (485 mm). The height of the toilet seat shall be 17 to 19 inches (430 – 485 mm) above the finished floor.


ADA Height Requirements for toilet

Fig. 29
Grab Bars at Water Closets

Figure A6. Wheelchair Transfers.

A6(a). Diagonal Approach. Shows a person using a wheelchair approaching a water closet or toilet (toilet) from the front and turning to the left to position the wheelchair at a diagonal to the water closet or toilet. The centerline toilet is shown as 18 inches (455 mm) from the closest side wall. The edge of the clear floor space on the opposite side of the toilet is shown as 18 – 30 inches (455 – 760 mm) from the edge of the clear floor space to the centerline of the toilet. Four illustrations show the transfer from the wheelchair to the seat of the toilet. In (1), the user takes a transfer position, swings footrest out of the way, and sets brakes. In (2), the user removes the armrest closest to the toilet, and transfers by pivoting counterclockwise and moving from the wheelchair seat towards the toilet seat. In (3), the user moves the wheelchair out of the way and changes position (some people fold chair or pivot it 90 degrees to the toilet). In (4), the user positions on toilet, and releases brake.

A6(b). Side Approach. Shows a person using a wheelchair positioned to one side of a toilet. The back of the wheelchair is facing the wall that is behind the toilet. In the figure, the toilet is to the left of the wheelchair user. The centerline toilet is shown as 18 inches (455 mm) from the closest side wall. The edge of the clear floor space on the opposite side of the toilet is shown as 42 inches (1065 mm) from the edge of the clear floor space to the centerline of the toilet. Three illustrations show the transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet. In (1), the user takes the transfer position adjacent to the toilet, removes the armrest closest to the toilet and sets brakes. In (2), the user transfers from the wheelchair to the seat of the toilet by sliding sideways from the wheelchair seat onto the toilet seat. In (3), the user positions on the toilet seat. The wheelchair remains positioned beside the toilet.


Wheelchair Transfers

Wheelchair Transfers

Fig. A6
Wheelchair Transfers


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September 3, 2013 |

2 thoughts on “ADA Height Requirements For Grab Bars By Toilet

  1. Linda says:


    I am a wheelchair user and I find that the right side grab bars by the toilet are designed
    only for people on canes or on walkers. The existing side bar is way too high to push off
    from when making a transfer back to my wheelchair. I have to jack up my shoulder so
    much that I injured it significantly. Often the toilet is too low making the bar even higher.
    I recently helped with the design of a public bathroom and asked the builder to put
    in 2 bars. One was the ADA requirement. The second was mimicked several inches
    below allowing access for everyone.

    Due to building codes, most bathrooms get away with just installing the bars without
    changing the toilet height and then say it is handicap accessible. But to whom?

    I would like to work with the folks that set ADA standards with the hope of asking them
    to install only one more lower side bar. Do you know who I could contact?

    Thank you

    • Joey Bolohan says:

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for your comment,

      The ADA codes calls for an 18-inch toilet to be installed in all buildings built past 2002 when the building code was in stated. Any building built prior to 2002 are told to make the ADA compliance upgrades to what is readily achievable which is open for interpretation. As long as the building owner is removing as many architectural barriers in the existing facility as financially feasible and has a plan to continue removing as many architectural barriers for ADA accessibility in the future then they are abiding by the laws.

      It would not be possible to add an additional grab bar on the side wall of the toilet due to the location of the toilet paper dispenser and trying to get all building that allready made the up grades to then make more changes is probably not going to be to feasible. All the ADA codes were set by a council who was formed by folks who are disabled and in wheelchairs.

      Please let me know what your thoughts are on this and keep us posted on what your outcome is.

      Thank you,
      Joey Bolohan

      Here is some information to get in contact with the folks in the ADA:

      ADA Information Line

      The Department of Justice operates a toll-free ADA Information Line to provide information and materials to the public about the requirements of the ADA.

      ADA Specialists, who assist callers in understanding how the ADA applies to their situation, are available on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) and on Thursday from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Calls are confidential.

      To get answers to technical questions, obtain general ADA information, order free ADA materials, or ask about filing a complaint, please call:

      800-514-0301 (voice);

      800-514-0383 (TTY)

      ADA Links and Resources

      Here are some myths and facts about the ADA compliance codes this is listed on their website but hard to find.


      MYTH: ADA suits are flooding the courts.

      FACT: The ADA has resulted in a surprisingly small number of
      lawsuits — only about 650 nationwide in five years. That’s tiny
      compared to the 6 million businesses; 666,000 public and private
      employers; and 80,000 units of state and local government that
      must comply.

      MYTH: The ADA is rigid and requires businesses to spend lots of
      money to make their existing facilities accessible.

      FACT: The ADA is based on common sense. It recognizes that
      altering existing structures is more costly than making new
      construction accessible. The law _only_ requires that public
      accommodations (e.g. stores, banks, hotels, and restaurants)
      remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is
      “readily achievable”, i.e., it can be done “without much
      difficulty or expense.” Inexpensive, easy steps to take include
      ramping one step; installing a bathroom grab bar; lowering a
      paper towel dispenser; rearranging furniture; installing offset
      hinges to widen a doorway; or painting new lines to create an
      accessible parking space.

      MYTH: The government thinks everything is readily achievable.

      FACT: Not true. Often it may not be readily achievable to remove
      a barrier — especially in older structures. Let’s say a small
      business is located above ground. Installing an elevator would
      not, most likely, be readily achievable — and there may not be
      enough room to build a ramp — or the business may not be
      profitable enough to build a ramp. In these circumstances, the
      ADA would allow a business to simply provide curbside service to
      persons with disabilities.

      MYTH: The ADA requires businesses to remove barriers overnight.

      FACT: Businesses are only required to do what is readily
      achievable at that time. A small business may find that
      installing a ramp is not readily achievable this year, but if
      profits improve it will be readily achievable next year.
      Businesses are encouraged to evaluate their facilities and
      develop a long-term plan for barrier removal that is commensurate
      with their resources.

      MYTH: Restaurants must provide menus in braille.

      FACT: Not true. Waiters can read the menu to blind customers.

      MYTH: The ADA requires extensive renovation of all state and
      local government buildings to make them accessible.

      FACT: The ADA requires all government _programs_, not all
      government _buildings_, to be accessible. “Program
      accessibility” is a very flexible requirement and does not
      require a local government to do anything that would result in an
      undue financial or administrative burden. Local governments have
      been subject to this requirement for many years under the
      Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Not every building, nor each part of
      every building needs to be accessible. Structural modifications
      are required only when there is no alternative available for
      providing program access. Let’s say a town library has an
      inaccessible second floor. No elevator is needed if it provides
      “program accessibility” for persons using wheelchairs by having
      staff retrieve books.

      MYTH: Sign language interpreters are required everywhere.

      FACT: The ADA only requires that effective communication not
      exclude people with disabilities — which in many situations
      means providing written materials or exchanging notes. The law
      does not require any measure that would cause an undue financial
      or administrative burden.

      MYTH: The ADA forces business and government to spend lots of
      money hiring unqualified people.

      FACT: No unqualified job applicant or employee with a disability
      can claim employment discrimination under the ADA. Employees
      must meet all the requirements of the job and perform the
      essential functions of the job with or without reasonable
      accommodation. No accommodation must be provided if it would
      result in an undue hardship on the employer.

      MYTH: Accommodating workers with disabilities costs too much.

      FACT: Reasonable accommodation is usually far less expensive than
      many people think. In most cases, an appropriate reasonable
      accommodation can be made without difficulty and at little or no
      cost. A recent study commissioned by Sears indicates that of the
      436 reasonable accommodations provided by the company between
      1978 and 1992, 69% cost nothing, 28% cost less than $1,000, and
      only 3% cost more than $1,000.

      MYTH: The government is no help when it comes to paying for

      FACT: Not so. Federal tax incentives are available to help meet
      the cost of ADA compliance.

      MYTH: Businesses must pay large fines when they violate the ADA.

      FACT: Courts may levy civil penalties only in cases brought by
      the Justice Department, not private litigants. The Department
      only seeks such penalties when the violation is substantial and
      the business has shown bad faith in failing to comply. Bad faith
      can take many forms, including hostile acts against people with
      disabilities, a long-term failure even to inquire into what the
      ADA requires, or sustained resistance to voluntary compliance.
      The Department also considers a business’ size and resources in
      determining whether civil penalties are appropriate. Civil
      penalties may not be assessed in cases against state or local
      governments or employers.

      MYTH: The Justice Department sues first and asks questions later.

      FACT: The primary goal of the Department’s enforcement program is
      to increase voluntary compliance through technical assistance and
      negotiation. Under existing rules, the Department may not file a
      lawsuit unless it has first tried to settle the dispute through
      negotiations — which is why most every complaint settles.

      MYTH: The Justice Department never files suits.

      FACT: The Department has been party to 20 suits under the ADA.
      Although it tries extensively to promote voluntary compliance,
      the Department will take legal action when entities continue to
      resist complying with the law.

      MYTH: Many ADA cases involve frivolous issues.

      FACT: The Justice Department’s enforcement of the ADA has been
      fair and rooted in common sense. The overwhelming majority of
      the complaints received by the Justice Department have merit.
      Our focus is on fundamental issues related to access to goods and
      services that are basic to people’s lives. We have avoided
      pursuing fringe and frivolous issues and will continue to do so.

      MYTH: Everyone claims to be covered under the ADA.

      FACT: The definition of “individual with a disability” is fraught
      with conditions and must be applied on a case-by-case basis.

      MYTH: The ADA protects people who are overweight.

      FACT: Just being overweight is not enough. Modifications in
      policies only must be made if they are _reasonable_ and do not
      fundamentally alter the nature of the program or service
      provided. The Department has received only a handful of
      complaints about obesity.

      MYTH: The ADA is being misused by people with “bad backs” and
      “emotional problems.”

      FACT: Trivial complaints do not make it through the system. And
      many claims filed by individuals with such conditions are not
      trivial. There are people with severe depression or people with
      a history of alcoholism who are judged by their employers, not on
      the basis of their abilities, but rather upon stereotypes and
      fears that employers associate with their conditions.

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