Choosing A Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom Sink

As we become more aware of access issues in our buildings and communities, it's important to consider every detail of accessibility. In this article, we'll focus on bathroom washbasins—specifically on wheelchair sinks that meet or exceed ADA requirements, and how they can make both public and private restrooms safer, more comfortable, and more accessible to many individuals.

What Are Wheelchair Accessible Sinks?

Wheelchair accessible sinks are bathroom washbasins that have been designed to accommodate users with disabilities or limited mobility. In their most basic form, they meet minimum standards of height, clearance, and depth as prescribed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to make them more accessible to wheelchair users. Many newer designs, however, go beyond these requirements to make bathroom sinks safer and more comfortable for users and their caregivers. Some such designs include height adjustability for multiple users, safety rails for weakened users, and easy-to-clean surfaces, among other features.

This video showcases the Pressalit Wheelchair Sink as described by an Industrial Designer at Pressalit. This product won the 2017 Nightingale Silver Award for its unique design. The MATRIX MEDIUM wheelchair sink offers several smart features and it is both height-adjustable and easy to clean and maintain. The sink's back-wall conceals plumbing completely, which again is positive in relation to hygiene. Therefore, the product is suitable for a household of people with different needs. This product is both suitable for people with and without disabilities.

Where Are Wheelchair Accessible Sinks Found?

Most newly constructed public buildings are required to meet ADA accessibility guidelines for bathroom sinks, but many businesses and facilities choose to install handicap sinks that exceed ADA requirements. Even some places that are exempt from the requirements, such as homes or older buildings, may feature wheelchair sinks to cater to disabled, weakened, or mobility impaired users. Here are some common places where you will find wheelchair accessible sinks:

Commercial Facilities
As we mentioned, most newer businesses are required to have at least one ADA-compliant restroom, but places that cater to broad swaths of the public—such as movie theaters, supermarkets, malls, or hotels—often elect to outfit their bathrooms with enhanced accessibility features.

Private Residences
Private homes are not subject to ADA requirements, but many homeowners with disabilities or mobility issues, as well as those caring for a disabled or elderly loved one, choose to install wheelchair sinks in order to increase safety and comfort. Wheelchair accessible bathrooms are especially popular with the Aging In Place movement, which seeks to preserve dignity and independence by keeping elderly individuals in their own homes as they age. Wheelchair sinks installed in the home can be customized to meet the specific needs of individual users.

Hospitals and Care Facilities
Wheelchair accessible sinks, naturally, are widely used in facilities that accommodate a large volume of disabled and weakened persons, such as hospitals and assisted living facilities. These types of places often have sinks with adjustable features to accommodate multiple users with different needs.

Marble ADA vanity sink with grab handles and overflow holes

ADA Accessible Bathroom Requirements

Even for buildings that aren't subject to its requirements, the ADA's guidelines are a good place to start when considering how to increase a bathroom's accessibility.

Height and Clearance
For adult users, sink tops should be mounted no higher than 34 inches from the floor. Additionally, there should be a space below the sink of at least 29 inches high, 30 inches wide, and 25 inches deep to accommodate knee room. These measurements reduce by about five inches for children. Finally, there must be a cleared space of 30 inches by 48 inches around the sink. The door may not open into this space.

Depth
Handicap washbasins should be no deeper than 6.5 inches.

Faucets
Faucets should be turned on and off via lever, touch, push, or motion sensor. They should be operable with only one hand, and users should not have to squeeze, grasp, or twist, or exert more than five pounds of pressure.

ADA compliant bathroom with wheelchair accessible sink

Types of Wheelchair Accessible Sinks

There are a variety of ADA-compliant wheelchair sinks designed to accommodate various needs. Here are some of the most common:

ADA Wall-Mounted Sinks
Wall-mounted sinks are sturdy, basic washbasins that can be mounted directly to the wall according to ADA measurement guidelines. They are most useful in bathrooms that see a low volume of disabled users.

Height-Adjustable Wheelchair Sinks
Height-adjustable sinks are typically mounted to a track that is attached to the wall, and often can move laterally as well as vertically. They are especially useful in hospitals and care facilities that serve a variety of users with different needs and body sizes. Whereas wall-mounted sinks might strain smaller or larger individuals, these washbasins can be adjusted to accommodate virtually anyone. Likewise, many such models can be equipped with handrails and other features that address individual needs and the needs of caregivers.

ADA Vanity Sinks
There are a number of designer handicap sinks available that meet or exceed ADA requirements while at the same time offering aesthetic appeal. These are typically wall-mounted, though adjustable models are available. ADA vanity sinks are common in homes, hotels, and other places where décor is a prominent concern.

ADA Undermount Sinks
Undermount sinks are designed to be installed in a cabinet, counter, or other supportive structure. They are often used in places where space and storage are at a premium. Though ADA-compliant undermount washbasins and faucets are readily available, care must be taken to assure that the spaces they are mounted in meet ADA clearance requirements, as many cabinets inhibit knee room for wheelchair users.

ADA wall-mounted Sink for wheelchair users

ADA Vessel Sinks
Vessel sinks, in which the washbasin stands independently, are popular choices in contemporary décor. As with undermount sinks, care should be taken to ensure that the mounting apparatus—usually a countertop—provides enough clearance for disabled users.

ADA Pedestal Sinks
Pedestal sinks mount directly to the floor, and, in addition to furnishing a classic aesthetic appeal, provide an alternative form of sturdy installation where wall-mounting is impossible or prohibitive. Wheelchair users will prefer ADA-compliant designs that take care not to let the pedestal mount interfere with undersink knee clearance.

Materials Used in Wheelchair Accessible Sinks

Just as there are a variety of wheelchair sink designs, wheelchair sinks are made with a variety of materials that fulfill both functional and aesthetic purposes.

ADA Ceramic Sinks
Ceramics are the most frequently used material in sink construction, whether ADA-compliant or otherwise. It is sturdy, easy to clean, aesthetically appealing, and cost-efficient, but ceramic sinks are also brittle and prone to cracking and chipping, and so may not be the best option for high-volume washrooms.

Wheelchair sink with ada faucet

ADA Porcelain Sinks
Porcelain, like ceramic, is made from baked clay, but porcelain handicap sinks are harder and less porous than ceramic sinks. Especially in highly trafficked bathrooms, porcelain is desirable for its durability.

ADA Stainless Steel Sinks
Because of their exceptional durability, cleanliness, sturdiness, and value, stainless steel wheelchair sinks are widely used in hospitals and care facilities that see frequent use of their accessible bathrooms. Stainless steel wheelchair sinks are a great option for settings where functionality is more important than looks.

ADA Marble Sinks
Marble is widely prized for its durability and its aesthetic qualities. It is also more porous than other materials, which can make cleaning difficult. Many sink manufacturers address this issue by applying a gel or vitreous coating that makes cleaning marble wheelchair sinks easier. Our Pressalit Care Wheelchair Sinks are made from cultured marble with a high-polished and a pore-free sanitary gel coating to the sinks pore-free and highly sanitary.

Conclusion

As with all aspects of accessible bathrooms, wheelchair sinks can make routine tasks safer and more comfortable for disabled, weakened, or mobility impaired individuals. Though ADA guidelines are a good (and often required) place to start in maximizing washbasin accessibility, many handicap sinks go above and beyond in accommodating users with different needs while maintaining aesthetic appeal. Deciding which sink is appropriate for a given bathroom will depend on the needs and considerations of its users.