Finding the space: Renovating bathrooms for ADA compliance

Roll-in showers are a must for bathrooms in accessible rooms.

This is part three of a three-part series on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Click here to read part two, "Training for ADA compliance."

If a hotel is compliant with the standards set forth by the ADA in 1991, they are often within a safe harbor where they are not required to meet the updated 2010 standards until a change—such as a guestroom renovation—takes place. When that occurs, the updated area must then be in compliance with the 2010 standards, and one area that has caused problems for hotels during renovations is the guestroom bathroom.


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Under the 1991 Standards, a sink could be placed within the required clear floor space around a toilet.  The 2010 Standards do not allow this, and also require vanity space in accessible rooms be comparable to that in non-accessible rooms.

Hotels should inspect guestrooms before the arrival of mobility impaired guests to ensure everything on vanities and desks is within reach. 

“This new requirement is a real problem in alterations to existing accessible guestrooms that were perfectly compliant under the 1991 Standards,” said Minh Vu, partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLC. “When hotels replace their toilets they can’t put it back where it was, because that would not comply with the 2010 Standards.  It can be difficult to reconfigure the plumbing without changing the bathroom footprint. In some properties, it can be very expensive.”

Hotels have the option to make a case that updating their bathrooms to comply with the 2010 standards are infeasible due to how the property’s plumbing is configured, However, according to Vu, it is often difficult to establish this.

A similar struggle in bathroom design comes down to sink height. According to Marian Goodman, CEO of Sky Hospitality, an operator of over 13 Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, ADA compliance now requires sinks to be high enough for wheelchairs to roll under, often limiting vanity space. Microtel solved this issue by providing rolling carts for guests to store their toiletries.