What Is an ADA Shower?

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In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed so that any public or commercial building must comply with specific laws and regulations so that their establishments are accessible by people with disabilities. 

An ADA shower is simply a shower that complies with the rules and regulations that the ADA has set out, and it ensures that those people with disabilities can use the shower without any obstacles or potential harm to themselves.

What features make a shower ADA compliant?

These showers typically will have wider openings, grab bars, lower thresholds and sometimes built-in seating. 

The wider openings allow for people who are in wheelchairs or have other mobility assistive devices to maneuver around in the shower without hurting themselves or causing an issue getting in an out. 

The lower thresholds, sometimes known as roll in showers, allow for people who are in a wheelchair to get into and out of the shower without transferring out of their wheelchair, if it’s unsafe for them to do so. 

For some people, having built-in seating can be helpful if they want to transfer in the shower and don’t quite need to be in their wheelchair or use their walker for the whole time. 

The built-in seating allows for people with mobility issues to keep their independence for showering without hurting themselves. 

shower for disabled

You might like to read: How Often Should the Elderly Shower?

Types of ADA compliant showers

There are two main types of ADA compliant showers: transfer and roll-in showers. 

The most common type of shower is the transfer shower. This kind of shower must be at least 36” wide, and they are designed to easily transfer people with mobility issues from their wheelchair (or other assistive devices) to a seat/bench in the shower. 

The majority of modern hotel rooms that have ADA compliant rooms have transfer showers in them, but this type of shower can also be installed in private homes as well. 

The other kind of ADA shower is called the roll-in shower. These showers are typically at little wider at 60” as they need to accommodate a whole wheelchair and be able to have the wheelchair maneuver around. 

In both cases, the ADA regulations state that the threshold for these showers can be no more than 1/2” high, so most of them don’t have a threshold at all. Many of them will also feature grab bars for safety and security, and seating.

Even if someone uses the shower as a roll-in shower they may sometimes still wish to transfer to the bench seat so these showers must still have the bench. They also must have a grab bar on the side wall opposite the bench seat.

Additionally, the showers must be equipped with a curtain rod, curtain and a pressure-balanced mixing valve that has a handheld shower wand that is easy to grab. 

You might like to read: What Are the ADA Requirements for Doors?

Is an ADA shower the same as an accessible shower?

If you’re considering traveling and staying in a hotel room, you may see the terms ADA and accessible used interchangeably. This could also happen if you’ve been considering renovating your shower and the research you’ve founds uses both terms. 

So, do they mean same thing? Before booking a hotel room or renovating your own bathroom, it’s important to understand what they difference is and why they don’t mean the exact same thing. 

An accessible shower means that some modifications have been made in an effort to make it easier to utilize the shower for people with disabilities. They may be a wider opening, lower threshold or even a seat in the shower so that someone with mobility issues can sit down while showering. 

When it’s an ADA shower, it means that all the dimensions and features of the shower meet the requirements as set out by the ADA documentation. 

Accessible showers may have some of these features, but not everything has been met. 

This is not to say that an accessible shower doesn’t mean anything or can’t be used by someone who has a disability, however there could be a part of this shower that makes it difficult for them to use or rely on other people for help. 

elderly using hand bar

Does my home need to have an ADA compliant shower?

For ADA regulations, they apply to public and commercial buildings so the good news is that you do not have to have a shower meeting ADA guidelines in your home. 

If you need an accessible shower, you can definitely consult the ADA documentation for the measurements and features in them. This will help you determine what you need for your shower and what might make it easier for you to use the shower in your home. 

Many residential or private bathrooms do not have the space to accommodate the 60” opening required for a roll-in shower so they need to have a transfer shower. 

Further, most of the time the shower units for an ADA compliant shower will come in one piece and the unit is often too large to get into a residential home. 

If you want one of these showers in your home, you can purchase a unit that comes in multiple pieces but be sure to check that with the place you’re purchasing it before you buy it. 

You might like to read: Wall Mounted Folding Shower Seat Reviews

In some rare cases, a government agency may be funding the remodel of a private home to give a person who is disabled a bathroom they can use independently. 

If this is the case, then a homeowner may need to ensure their new shower meets the ADA requirements even though it is in a private residence. 

For this kind of program, the organization running the program will tell you what you need to do before starting the renovation to make sure that you get the full funding available to you for the program. 

What if you can’t do a full shower renovation?

If you have a disability that is progressing and you need more assistance than you did previously you might be thinking about doing a complete renovation so that you have an ADA compliant renovation. 

These renovations, without assistance, can be very expensive and not everyone has the budget to do them. 

If that’s the case, there are a few options you could consider to make it more accessible to use your shower. 

  • Grab bars – these can be installed and removed easily for better stability in the shower. They often suction to the wall and are not permanent, so if you’re worried about damaging the home or you’re in a rental where you may need to get a deposit back. 
  • Removeable bench – you can get shower chairs/benches that are very sturdy but are removeable so that other people in the house can use the shower still. They can be used for people who perhaps not in a wheelchair but have some mobility issues so they may need to sit in the shower instead of standing. 
  • Removeable shower heads – this modification can make it easier to use the shower bench and bathe without the shower just streaming down on someone. The removeable showerhead gives the person control over washing. You can also purchase a wall mount to put the detachable shower head so it can be reached when sitting on the bench. 
disabled compliant shower room

Can able bodied people use ADA compliant showers?

The modifications made to a shower to make it ADA compliant do not take away from the functionality of the shower so anyone else in the home can use the shower, or if someone is travelling with you they can also use it. 

They may have to change up how they shower a little bit but there is nothing stopping them from using the showers. 

Is there any recourse for a hotel not having an ADA compliant shower?

If you book a hotel room that states it is ADA compliant it means that all the components of the room must be ADA compliant. 

If you get into the hotel room and find that you cannot use the shower because it’s not ADA compliant and it doesn’t have the features you require, then you do have some recourse. 

You can report the hotel for claiming a hotel room is ADA compliant when it’s not, and they may have to pay some fines for doing this. 

At the time you’re at the hotel, the hotel should either get you a room that is ADA compliant or move you to another hotel where they have one (at their own cost).

You might like to read: Best Handheld Shower Head for Elderly

In summary

An ADA compliant shower is one that meets all the requirements set out by the ADA, including width and features to accommodate those with a disability. 

The features might include a shower bench/seat, grab bars, removeable shower head, no threshold so that it’s easy to step into and so on. If you have a disability, more specifically a physical disability, having an ADA shower can be a great help for maintaining independence when you have a disability.