Restaurants can do better with restroom accessibility. Here’s how.

Restaurants can do better with restroom accessibility. Here’s how.

For many people all over the world, going to the restroom at your local eatery is a mundane activity that requires little thought. But for those who have disabilities, the first thought upon visiting a restaurant is, “What challenges will I encounter when I go to the restroom?” and even, “Will I be able to get to the restroom at all?” Handicap signs do little to quell this anxiety, as the ADA regulations designed to provide equal access are often not enforced.

It should go without saying, but bare-minimum level accessibility is unacceptable and should no longer be an option. Everyone deserves the right to enjoy a meal out and use the restroom – without worrying about seemingly basic tasks like fitting through the doorway, navigating to the stall and washing their hands.

We’re calling on restaurant owners to review the layout of their restrooms and ask themselves whether they are truly accessible to all customers. The following are solutions to just a few common problem areas we’ve encountered with restaurant bathrooms.

1. Make it clear that your restroom is accessible.

It sounds obvious, but not all restaurants have appropriate handicap signage outside their restrooms. Further, it takes significant effort and maneuvering for those with wheelchairs, scooters and walkers to navigate through a restaurant around other customers; if your restroom door is not immediately visible (i.e. it’s located down a hallway or around a corner), it’s important to place handicap signage in a place where customers will see it, with arrows directing them toward the restroom if needed.

Note: customers with disabilities often research establishments prior to visiting, so you may want to indicate on your website that you have an accessible restroom.

2. Install a sink that’s accessible to mobile device users.

While it’s common to find restrooms with accessible entrances and handicap stalls, one often-overlooked area is the sink. Hand washing sinks frequently exceed the appropriate height for non-ambulatory customers, or are constructed with barriers that prevent full access for mobile devices. 

Consider these questions:

  • Are the faucet, soap and sink basin within reach for customers who use a wheelchair, scooter or other mobile device? 
  • Is there space for customers to pull their mobile device beneath the sink basin, or do cabinets beneath the sink prevent access? 
  • If the sink outside the restroom stalls is inaccessible, is it possible to install an accessible sink within an existing handicap stall?


3. Provide adequate space for mobility.

If you have a handicap stall, that’s a great first step—but is there also enough room for mobile devices to fit through the entrance? Is there décor or furniture like cabinets or “waiting area” seating that could present challenges to mobility? These are important considerations when it comes to providing accessible restrooms for all customers.

In addition, the following are common problems to avoid:

  • A handicap stall is available, but there is not enough room to close the door once a mobile device is inside it.
  • Configuration of the restroom makes it difficult for those with mobile devices to reach the handicap stall, particularly when other people are using the space.

4. Install an adult changing table.

It’s expected to find a baby changing station in every public bathroom, but very rare to find a changing table to accommodate older children and adults who need toileting assistance. Without a special changing table, these individuals must be changed on the floor, or wait until they return home. Restaurants with a private, family-style restroom should consider installing an adult changing table in place of a baby changing station; that way, they can accommodate customers of all ages who have special changing needs. 

What do you think?

If you are or know someone with a disability, what other problems have you encountered with restaurant restrooms? How could dining establishments better meet your needs to help you have an enjoyable, stress-free experience? Contact us to share your experience by email at

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