Universal Design: Bathrooms

The next stop in our Universal Design series is one that we use every day – the bathroom!

Bathrooms are critical to our physical and emotional well-being, but are also an incredibly major issue for accessibility far before most of us would consider ourselves disabled!

There are three main issues to address when it comes to Universal Design in the bathroom: entry, space, and safety.


As with the rest of the house, the entry is critical to our capacity to use a bathroom. While standard doors in a home may be as wide as 32″, bathroom doors may be anywhere from 24″-30″, creating a situation where very few can enter with a walker, wheelchair, laundry basket or squirmy toddler in tow.

Ensuring that bathroom entryways are 36″-40″ in width will allow entry for all into this most crucial of household rooms!


Simply passing through the door of the bathroom doesn’t always solve the problem. Bathrooms have historically been incredibly tight spaces and, as such, are often difficult to enter fully, turn around in or do the tasks we need to do. Think about bathing your squirmy toddler, helping a partner through morning sickness or the flu, or sharing the space with the kids to brush your teeth on a busy weekday morning.

Creating a minimum 60″ turning radius somewhere in the bathroom will accomplish more than simply allowing wheelchairs to navigate the space. While this will require a small increase in size, good design can accomplish this requirement with minimal increase in overall square footage.


Beyond that, slippery floors and poorly fastened towel rails and toilet paper dispensers combine to make bathrooms the most common place for falls. Consider this toilet paper dispenser (or the towel rail installed in the wall of the adjacent shower) on top of peel-and-stick tiles against rotting drywall – almost nothing to support the weight of a child, much less an adult who slips in the shower.


Slippery tiles can also contribute to the safety of a bathroom, but by choosing flooring with higher grip and installing plywood-backed grab bars beside the toilet and tub, everyone’s bathroom safety – young and old – improves, preventing falls that may result in bruises, cuts and even broken bones.

This universally designed bathrooms just needs the use of a knee space below the sink to make it fully accessible:

Screen Shot 2020-02-26 at 6.04.14 PM

Other blog posts in this series:

The Case for Universally Designed Communities

“Can’t You Just Add An Elevator?”

Universal Design: Property Considerations

The Seven Principles of Universal Design

Universal Design: Zero Barrier Entries

Universal Design: Entryways, Hallways and Room Layouts

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