Everything You Need to Know About Universal Washrooms

Posted by Handy Washroom on Jul 7th 2022

A universal washroom, also known as multi-use or accessible washrooms, is becoming a popular option for commercial washroom remodels. The term "universal" refers to the fact that these bathrooms are designed to accommodate the needs of many without the need for a special designations.

Commercial bathroom sink and mirror

A universal bathroom is equipped with grab bars and has room for turning radius—which means it's accessible to people using wheelchairs and those who need assisting devices like walkers or canes.

If your business wants to make sure it's restrooms are accessible for every member of the community, then a universal washroom might be just what you're looking for.

Universal Accessible Washrooms Are Becoming Popular

Universal washrooms are becoming quite a popular option for commercial washroom remodels. In the past few years, there has been a growing demand for universal washrooms in both the private and public sectors.

This is due to a variety of reasons including increased awareness of accessibility and safety issues, but also because they offer practical solutions to some of today's biggest challenges. Read on to find out what makes up this type of facility and how it differs from traditional bathrooms.

What is a Universal Washroom?

A universal washroom is a washroom that is accessible to everyone. This means that the room has a variety of different options for people with disabilities, including wheelchair users, visually impaired individuals and those who are unsteady on their feet.

Universal washrooms are most commonly found in public buildings such as government offices, malls, hockey rinks and libraries to name a few. They can also be found in large retail stores or businesses where there's lots of foot traffic but not enough space for separate facilities for every group of people who frequent the space.

According to the Ontario Building Code (OBC) a universal washroom is a public bathroom that can be used by people of any gender and with any physical ability. The purpose of this washroom is to make sure everyone in the province has access to facilities that they need, without having to worry about not being able to use the bathroom or other facilities because of their gender, physical ability, or any other factors.

As of the time of this writing, the OBC requires all new buildings have universal washrooms in them. If you are building a new home, you will have to include a universal washroom in your design. If you are renovating an existing building, you must add a universal washroom as long as it meets certain requirements. You also must ensure that your building meets accessibility standards for people with disabilities. Here's a list of OBC compliant bathroom equipment for Ontario.

Universal washrooms are able to accommodate many more people than traditional single-stall bathrooms because they allow for greater flexibility when it comes to placing sinks, toilets and shower stalls within the room's layout.

In a universal washroom, you'll find stalls and urinals that are similar to those found in men's and women's restrooms. The only difference is that these toilets don't have partitions between them. Although there may be multiple stalls, they can be entered from different sides by anyone who needs to use them.

How Do Universal Washrooms Work?

As the name suggests, universal washrooms are designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. They're also meant to accommodate people with mobility challenges and other physical limitations.

How do they work? In a universal washroom, you'll find stalls equipped with grab bars and other features that make it easier to use the facilities. For example, a universal washroom might include one or more of these:

  • A toilet positioned slightly higher than usual so that someone in a wheelchair can use it easily.
  • A sink at an appropriate height for wheelchair users who want to get up close to the sink or mirror.
  • Floor drains designed for wheelchairs or walkers so that there's no need for anyone else to step into puddles when exiting.

What Makes a Washroom Universal?

But what makes them “universal”? Well, they’re designed to accommodate the needs of many without the need for special designations. This means that you can expect to find universal washrooms equipped with a variety of features that will help people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs and those who need assisting devices.

How do You Know if You Need a Universal Washroom?

If you have a large facility with a lot of people using the bathroom, a universal washroom should be an option for your building. If you have a lot of people with disabilities or mobility issues, having a universally designed washroom will make it easier for them to use the bathroom without having to worry about being able to navigate around the space.

If you have children visiting your facility, having accessible bathrooms is important so that they can use the facilities on their own too and not depend on others to assist them. This also applies if there are elderly in attendance at events held in your building; they will appreciate not having to wait outside while someone assists them in getting inside and out again when they need to go.

Ensure You Can Serve All Members of Your Community

The most obvious reason to install a universal bathroom would be to ensure that your establishment can serve all members of your community. If you want customers and employees to be happy, it's important to make sure that everyone has the same accessibility to their bathrooms.

As such, universal washrooms are not just for people with disabilities or mobility issues. They're also for parents, who need changing tables so they can change their baby's diaper while still having access to sinks and toilets, as well as caretakers who might need more space when pushing a wheelchair through narrow doorways or halls.

The same goes for children of all ages: if you have kids attending events at your venue (whether organized by you or not), chances are they'll need somewhere safe and private where they can go when nature calls—or needs some quiet time away from crowds while waiting in line.

Account for Needing Additional Space

If you’re considering building a universal bathroom at your business, you should be aware of the cost difference between this type of restroom and a traditional single-user toilet.

A common question is how much more expensive it is to install a universal washroom versus installing two separate single-stall bathrooms. The answer is easy: it depends on what you prefer. While some universal bathrooms may be more expensive than traditional ones because they require more space or sophisticated fixtures, others can even save money because they don’t require as much construction material as two separate restrooms would need.

In general, the cost really depends on what kind of design elements you chose. If extra space is an issue for your building project, then maybe installing another traditional restroom would be better for both budget and convenience reasons instead of trying to squeeze another person into an already crowded men's or ladies' room.

Where Can You Install a Universal Washroom?

A universal washroom can be installed in the following places:

  • Public areas: shopping malls, airports, museums and exhibition halls.
  • Retail stores: department stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, bookstores and more.
  • Restaurants: fast food restaurants, dining restaurants or fine dining restaurants.
  • Hotels: hotels with 50 rooms or less are generally required to have one universal washroom per floor of the building; larger hotels follow different standards depending on how many rooms they have.

The Benefits of Universally Accessible Washrooms

A well-designed universally accessible washroom will be safe and inviting for both regular users and people with mobility challenges and have lots of benefits. Designers should consider the following:

  • The number of toilets needed in a space. A universal washroom can accommodate one or two toilet stalls, each with a sink and grab bar. If there is only one stall provided, it should be large enough to accommodate two users at once. If two are provided, they should be side by side to allow for easier transfer from wheelchair to toilet seat from one user to another.
  • The height of the toilet seat(s). Toilets that allow independence for users who cannot stand up unassisted need seats that are 17 inches high or lower. Some people with disabilities may require a handrail or grab bars above their heads as well as beside them on either side of the toilet; this is something you'll want to ask your local plumbing supply store about before purchasing fixtures at home centres like Home Depot!
  • The location of sinks relative to toilets so individuals can wash hands while still on their knees if necessary and thereby reducing risk factors associated with falls.

Need to Learn More?

If you have any other questions about installing a universal washroom or would like to learn more about the best equipment to install in them, contact us today. We look forward to helping you design the perfect accessible bathroom.