What makes a luxury accessible washroom?
It’s an unfortunate fact that ‘deluxe accessible washrooms’ are a fairly new design concept when it comes to commercial and hospitality interiors.
Until quite recently, disabled visitors to even the world’s most prestigious venues could be fairly sure that while their non-disabled companions would enjoy carefully-considered, decadently detailed washroom interiors, the disabled bathroom would more likely be a stark, hospital-like white box designed purely with function in mind (and sometimes falling short on that, too).
Thankfully, the tireless work of disability campaigners has begun to succeed in getting the message through: the group of people identifying as ‘disabled’ is much larger and more diverse than previously understood, they are discerning patrons with significant spending power, and they’re not going to settle for those dingy toilet-come-broom cupboard facilities any longer.
Of course, the design and specification of any accessible washroom is governed by Document M of the UK Building Regulations, which means there are strict rules about the equipment and basic dimensions of an accessible bathroom.
But more and more, we’re seeing architects, designers and owners going beyond ‘box ticking’, and pushing the envelope in terms of inclusive design to ensure that their carefully planned and executed interior aesthetics extend to every square inch of their venue, including the accessible washrooms.
So what are the essential elements of an accessible washroom space – and how far can you go in terms of deluxe design? From sanitaryware to luxury grab rails and finishing touches, read on for Fitzroy of London’s essential guide to inclusive loos with ‘wow factor’.
The toilet in a disabled washroom is the most important element and is subject to stringent guidelines in terms of both size and positioning. The WC must be raised to a minimum of 440mm – the average is 450mm – with additional projection from the wall to enable a wheelchair user to transfer laterally.
The most common transfer is a right-hand transfer, which means the user positions their chair next to the toilet on its left-hand side and transfers across to their right. It should be indicated on any external signage which transfer side is provided in the bathroom, and if more than one accessible toilet is available, you should provide both right- and left-handed facilities. The toilet flush paddle should be at the wheelchair side so it can be reached after the person has transferred back to their chair.
Depending on the transfer side, the toilet is usually installed in a corner with a perpendicular wall where a basin can be hung. The basin should be reachable while seated on the toilet and the tap should be at the same side as the toilet so the user doesn’t need to stretch across.
In luxury washrooms, a vanity area is highly desirable but in order to be accessible, your washroom must still have a small hand basin next to the toilet. You can create a separate vanity area if space permits, remembering to provide lowered facilities, including mirrors, for wheelchair users and the appropriate grab rails for ambulant users (more on that later). Vanity areas should have a plinth with space underneath so wheelchair users can roll in and use the basin comfortably.
Rails & supports
Back-to-wall or wall-hung toilet pans are a favourite in luxury washrooms because they give a sleeker, cleaner look, but many disabled users require more support than these toilets can provide on their own. A back support is a stylish addition that can be installed on the wall behind the toilet so the user can safely and comfortably lean back when seated. These usually have a padded profile for comfort – polyurethane faux leather is a luxurious option that’s easy to keep clean, although we also offer ergonomic wooden options that are both stylish and practical.
To satisfy Doc M, an accessible toilet must have five 600mm grab rails as standard plus a ‘lift and lock’ rail. The rails should be positioned:
- Horizontally alongside the toilet on the non-transfer side
- Vertically on the wall behind the toilet
- Vertically on the wall either side of the basin/mirror (two)
- On the door
- Lift and lock rail beside the toilet on the transfer side
This configuration offers support for wheelchair users transferring to and from the toilet, for all users when seated on the toilet (with the drop-down rail lowered) and for ambulant users standing to use the toilet or basin.
For luxury washrooms, switching out standard white or coloured rails for a premium finish like gold or brass is a simple and highly effective way to elevate the space. It’s important to note the requirements around contrast for visually impaired users – it’s vital that the rails are clearly visible against the wall, so you need to think carefully about things like tiles and wallcoverings at an early stage of the design process.
Choosing a sleeker design for the lift and lock rail is also a great tip – standard rails tend to have a ‘trombone’ profile, where a simple, straight rail can deliver a more streamlined, less clinical look. Some rails are also removable, and are supplied with a blanking plate so you can quickly and seamlessly adapt ensuite facilities depending on the needs of individual patrons.
Bathing and showering
In hotels, accessible facilities extend beyond inclusive WCs to include showering and/or bathing facilities for ensuite and spa areas, with their own requirements in line with Doc M. This includes track for a shower curtain (preferable to a roll-in cubicle, which can be restrictive for wheelchair users), a series of fixed and drop-down grab rails, and shower seats.
Fitzroy of London’s collections include co-ordinating items to help you create a luxurious, accessible showering space that works just as well for non-disabled and disabled users. Again, the selection of premium finishes enhances the look while the use of removable rails allows the space to adapt. Our premium shower seats are the crowning glory, with sleek design that sits in sharp contrast to the clinical-looking alternatives, and luxury materials like Iroko wood seats with natural non-slip properties.
One of the most successful ways to ensure that an accessible washroom space looks luxurious is to ensure that the other items in the space – taps, hooks, tissue dispensers and such – are considered as part of the overall design.
Luxury taps are not always accessible, but many manufacturers now offer sensor-operated touchless options that work well for people with disabilities as well as being ultra-hygienic. Fitzroy of London products are available in upwards of 50 different finishes so you can achieve a perfect match with your chosen taps and hardware for a seamless, design-conscious look.
We also offer a wide range of additional accessories including soap and tissue dispensers, shelves, robe hooks, and hand dryers, with bespoke finishing available on selected items to further enhance your deluxe accessible washroom space.
In order to achieve a deluxe finish within an accessible washroom space, two things are essential. One is a good understanding not just of the requirements around Doc M, but also of the ways in which disabled users use these spaces on a practical level. The other is a partner with the products and skills to support your creative vision without compromising on accessibility.
With over 20 years of expertise in accessible design and consultancy, and products selected by some of the world’s most prestigious venues, Fitzroy of London delivers on both counts. Contact us today to discuss your next project.