Advances in ADA Design for Healthcare

by JRSBlogWriterDecember 13, 2017
patient in wheelchair w/text "healthcare designers recommending 100% ADA compliant patient rooms

In general, codes require healthcare facilities to designate 10 percent of patient bathrooms to be designed to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. However, some healthcare designers, according to Healthcare Design Magazine, feel that percentage is far too low and are encouraging building owners to provide as many ADA compliant bathrooms as possible and even to go 100 percent compliant.

Michael Murphy, principal of Champlin Architecture, is quoted as saying, “When designing all rooms this way, it doesn’t limit patients to specific rooms and eliminates having to move patients from room to room,”

While designing all your patient bathrooms with ADA standards in mind can eliminate that resource intensive shuffle, at the heart of the trend is patient safety.

Consider that an American Community Survey estimates the overall rate of people with disabilities in the US population in 2015 was 12.6%; a rate has been rising since 2010. Add to that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nine out of 10 older Americans use at least one prescription drug monthly. Drugs with common side effects such as dizziness or vertigo, visual impairment, and sedation.


Prevalence of Disabilities


Even patients coming into a facility without a disability may have significant ambulatory challenges during their stay due to treatment and drug side effects. It is therefore no wonder that inpatient hospital fall rates range from two to seven falls per 1,000 patient days* and bathrooms are the second most common location for falls.**

Some healthcare facilities are leading the way and are striving to meet the needs of all patients to offer not only healthy and safe spaces, but inclusive spaces as well. Recent advances in plumbing design are helping those facilities meet their goals.

The Universal Design trend is leading the way in healthcare design, with the goal of creating a built space where all are welcome regardless of their age or ability. Universal Design goes beyond the minimum accessibility requirements set by law.

ADA Bathroom Design

One of the most significant design challenges is wheelchair accessibility and maneuverability, especially in bathroom design. ADA compliant toilets, urinals, sinks, showers, and valves make it easy to create a more inclusive space. Easy to use valves and properly installed grab bars are a benefit to all patients.

While the ADA standards and building codes are an excellent place to start, there are other practical considerations healthcare facilities must take into account. One of the most significant being design that accommodates the caregiver as well as the patient. Patients will often need assistance in the bathroom, and there is usually not enough room to maneuver safely. How easy is it for a caregiver to assist a patient in your facility’s bathrooms?

It can be difficult to conceptually envision what a safe bathroom might be. That is why Jean Hansen, sustainable interiors manager at HDR Architecture, suggested in MCD Magazine bringing in experts to review designs or to “mock up” some of the critical areas and having a person with the disability try them out prior to building.

In addition to mockups, you could listen to what patients with disabilities have to say about their experience. There is a wonderful series of videos produced by the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in which patients discuss their often challenging healthcare visits. Points that are hard to understand if you are not in their situation.

For information on Whitehall ADA compliant products that compliment your healthcare design, please contact us or visit our ADA compliant product page.

* Halfon, Patricia & Eggli, Yves & Van Melle, Guy & Vagnair, André. (2002). Risk of Falls for Hospitalized Patients: A Predictive Model Based on Routinely Available Data. Journal of clinical epidemiology.
** Paiva, Miriam Cristina Marques da Silva de, Paiva, Sergio Alberto Rupp de, Berti, Heloisa Wey, & Campana, Álvaro Oscar. (2010). Characterization of patient falls according to the notification in adverse event reports.