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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Mocanu

ADA Shower Requirements : A Complete Guide

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

ADA Shower Requirements

Various rules guide the setup of showers and washrooms in general, especially in public places. Like the Plumbing and building codes, most of these laws and requirements address the structure and orientations. But there is a more specific one, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law passed in 1990 by the 101st U.S congress to make public and commercial facilities more accessible to people with disabilities.

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In this blog we’d talk about various ADA shower requirements.

Staying up-to-date with these laws and ensuring that your restaurant fits the bills is of the utmost importance. It also relieves you from the stress of brushing shoulders with the authorities and human rights lobbies.

This article details the various concepts stated in the ADA codes regarding showers in commercial and public places.

What are ADA shower requirements?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has some clear guidelines on standard dimensions and configurations of shower facilities. The requirements, expressly stated in chapter 6, section 608 of the ADA Plumbing Elements and Facilities Standards, allow people with disabilities equal access to such facilities in commercial and public buildings.

However, these requirements vary depending on the area of application and type of shower. Here is a simplified illustration.

Type of Shower

The ADA guidelines demand that showers have specific INSIDE dimensions. There are only two acceptable styles for this, transfer showers and roll-in showers. The former must measure 36" x 36" while the latter must have an inside dimension of 60" x 30".

Transfer-Type Showers

A transfer-type shower should be spacious enough to allow a user to move from a wheelchair to the shower seat. Their designs allow wheelchairs to roll up beside the showers and transfer from the wheelchair to the shower seat.

While on the seat, they should access the different controls, including the valve, shower spray units, and faucets installed on the wall opposite the seat. The controls must be no less than 38" and no more than 48" vertically above the floor.

There is a 10" x 15" area to locate the controls, so all these must not be more than 15" away from the seat's centerline and extending towards the entrance of the compartment. The L-shaped folding or non-folding seat should be no more than 3" from the entrance.

Thresholds in a transfer-type shower must be ½" high from the finished bathroom floor.

Standard Roll-in Showers

Roll-in showers allow greater flexibility with the dimensions listed as minimums. They either come as zero barriers or have thresholds that must always comply with set specific sections.

A threshold roll-in shower must measure 60" x 30" from the center points of opposing sides and must have a 60" minimum opening from top to bottom. In addition, the American National Standards Institute calls for a standard roll-in shower to have a seat, though this may be optional if you are following the ADA guidelines.

If you opt to have a seat, it must be folded, placed no more than 3" from the entrance. The shower must also have a wall grab bar extending 18" from the control wall and a clearance of 60" x 30".

The controls must be on the back wall 38-48" above the floor and no more than 27" horizontally from the seat wall for a compartment with a seat.

Alternate Roll-In Shower

Alternate roll-in showers resemble their standard siblings, except that they have shorter walls across part of the front where there is the seat. Like in Standard Roll-In Type Showers, these compartments can either be zero-barrier or have thresholds that must comply with set standards.

First, the compartment must measure 60" x 36" from the center points of opposite sides and must be 36" from the back wall to the front wall (the code does not state any construction tolerance for this). Second, there must be grab bars on the back and side walls opposite from the compartment entry.

There must be a 36" minimum opening at the entry of the compartment. For units with seats, the controls should be on the wall adjacent to the seat, 38-48 vertically away from the floor, and no more than 27" horizontally from the seat's backrest.

If the controls, for some reason, are to be on the wall opposite the seat, they should be no more than 15" horizontally away from the seat’s centerline to the right, or the left.

Other Items

Shower Curtains and Rods

The height of shower curtain rods is always controversial, with most people not knowing what it should be. Unfortunately, the ADA standards do not specifically outline this area, but you can always use the 'accessible route' requirements. According to the ADA, the minimum height of objects installed above the accessible route is 80"; shower curtain rods fall in that category.

It is important to note that there is no minimum requirement for how high the curtain rods should go. Curbs at the edge of the shower and on the side of a bathtub give detection. This is to alert visually impaired users on the rod above.

The only facilities with minimum height requirements for curtain rods are standard roll-in and alternate roll-in showers. In these facilities, the threshold must always comply with ADA 303 for alteration in levels. ADA 303 allows a maximum of 0.5" beveled change or 0.25" vertical change.

Such locations lack sufficient detection. Therefore, the curtain rod must never get lower than 80" above the floor as required by ADA 307.


The threshold in a public or commercial facility must not exceed a 0.5" change in level. For transfer showers, ADA allows for rounded, vertical, or beveled changes. On the other hand, Standard roll-in and alternate roll-in allow only up to 0.25" vertical rises with maximum 0.25 high beveled. This should not be steeper than 1:2.

Grab Bars

All ADA compliant grab bars with circular cross-sections should have between 1.25 and 1.5" diameter and must be 250 lb. rated.

The grabs must not be placed above the seats and should be mounted at the height of multiple bars- 33" to 36" above the finish floor. In addition, they should not go more than 6" from the adjacent wall.

Grab bars in compartments should be 42" long, but 48" grab bars are also an excellent option. They must always be not more than 12" from the back wall. This bathroom length and location stands whether you are installing a grab bar in an individual or compartment facility.

Is A Seat Required in ADA Shower?

Seats Are not always an ADA requirement for showers. However, there are a few situations that require seats to be installed. For instance, transfer-type shower compartments always require shower seats.

Transient lodging facilities such as halfway houses, dorms, and hotels require seats in the showers, whether transfer, standard roll-in, or alternate roll-in shower compartments.

ADA requires the shower seat and its compartments to be able to withstand up to pounds. The seats may either be rectangular or L-shaped, placed on the sidewall adjacent to the controls. It should extend from the back wall leaving a 3" gap from the entry.

For a rectangular folding bench seat, the rear edge should be 2.5" maximum off the side wall and 1.5" off the back wall. The overall depth should be about15-16".

L-shaped seats should have a maximum of 2.5" rear edge with a front edge of about 15-16" from the front wall. The rear edge of the L section should be a maximum of 1.5" from the wall, with the front edge being about 14-15" from the seat wall. The base of the L should be between 22-23" from the main seat wall.

When combining tub and shower units, you can either have a permanent seat at the head of your bathtub or a detachable in-tub seat. Permanent seats at least 15" wide, extending the entire width of the tub to 75 inches.

What Is The ADA Height for A Shower Head?

ADA requires showerheads inaccessible to public and commercial bathing facilities to be usable in fixed positions as a hand-held model with at least 59" long hose. For an easier manipulation of this unit, a 69" long hose is a better fit.

There is also room for installing an optional vertical slide bar measuring between 36-40" to allow the spray unit to function as a fixed shower head within various heights.

There should be an alternate location for water union between 12-16" above the grab bar to give room for extended reach for the hand-held shower in compartments with sidebars.

It is important to note that these ADA accessibility standards have a few exceptions. First, a shower head installed 48" above the finish floor may be mounted in the place of hand-held units that do not fit in any of these categories:

  • Medical care facilities

  • Long-term care facilities

  • Transient lodging guest rooms

  • Residential dwelling units

ADA Shower Valve Requirements

The ADA states that the shower controls are placed on the back wall or side walls. However, there is always a leeway when it comes to the placement of a control valve. The rule of thumb in this matter is always that it must always be within the arm's reach from the shower seat.

In stalls measuring 36" x 36", the control valve must be opposite the seat for the users to reach it with ease. The general understanding is that the shower stall is 36" x 36". Making larger shower stalls would make it difficult for the user to access the controls from a sitting position. Therefore, the controls, including the shower valve, must be within a comfortable arm's reach.

Like other controls, the minimum height for the shower valve should be 38" above the floor, with the maximum being 48". Architects always have a 10" leeway to place these controls - as long as they are within 38" -48", the controls are always compliant.

The ADA also has set criteria on how to operate each control, including the shower valve. For example, the controls must not require anything above five foot-pounds of pressure to operate. Also, the controls cannot pinch or bind the wrist, figures, or skins. As so, the operator must be able to with only one hand.

ADA Hand Held Shower Requirements

According to the ADA guidelines, a facility should provide a shower spray unit with a 60" long hose that can function as both a hand-held shower and a fixed shower. However, there is an exception in unmonitored facilities exposed to vandalism instances. In such cases, the facility may install a fixed shower instead of a hand-held shower; however, the height must be 48" above the floor.

The same goes for facilities where a hand-held shower spray unit is installed on a vertical bar with an adjustable height. The bar must be in the right position that allows the positioning of the hand-held shower spray within the specified area and no more than 48" high.

When mounting the shower spray to the vertical bar providing adjustable positions above the 48" recommended height, the bar must not obstruct the use of grab bars. However, it can be anywhere within 12" minimum. It must allow 1.5" minimum clearance above the bar without extending behind the grab bar.

The general rule with hand-held shower spray units is that they must always be in a lower position. This is because it places it within accessible reach for all users.

It is also important to note that while you can use fixed showerheads alongside hand-held showers, they can never replace the latter in medical facilities, long-term care facilities, transient lodgings, and dwelling units.

ADA Shower Faucets

The ADA regulations are explicitly clear on making it easier for people with disabilities to access water from faucets in public and commercial spaces. All faucets, whether push-types, lever-operated, and electronically controlled mechanisms, must adhere to the set rules. In cases where a facility has a self-closing valve, the facets must remain open for a minimum of 10 seconds.

In most cases, the same facet requirements go hand in hand with sink requirements. So, it would help if you took note of both.

The first requirement states that the sink should not be in a high location where someone with any disability cannot reach. To be specific, a sink should not be more than 34" above the floor and must have a 27" high knee clearance area.

The sink should also be 25" by 11" deep and 30" wide. Additionally, it should have clear floor space and insulated pipes beneath. And, someone should be able to use the sink with a single hand with a not-tight grip, pinch, or twist of the wrist.

The rule of thumb is that the faucets should be easy to operate with minimum effort and as pain-free as possible. The user must have to use more than pounds of pressure to operate a faucet.

The faucet and the soap dispenses must be within an adequate range and height. The limitation on the height is 48" for all accessories. However, the lavatory fixtures may extend to 20" deep.

There are five apparent tips that one needs to follow when looking for and installing ADA-compliant faucets. They include;

  1. Twist and Turns

Regardless of their disabilities, users should be able to pull, twist, and turn the handles to trigger water flow with little force, mostly less than 5 lb. Anything beyond this may not be easy and may hinder the person's ability to access water.

2. Ability to Use with One Hand

When selecting or installing a faucet, the second question to ask yourself is, can you operate it with minimal force but with one hand? An ADA compliant faucet should allow users to activate and deactivate water flow with one hand. It makes it easier for people with physical limitations to operate them.

3. Measurement

A faucet, if elevated too high, could be problematic. The ADA regulations dictate that a faucet doesn't go higher than 48" above the floor. Modern faucets have handles mounted on the base to help installers ensure that the installation complies with the height requirements.

4. Always Take Note of the Gaps

ADA also requires public and commercial facilities to have enough room beneath the faucets. The distance between the floor and the surface under the faucet should be 27", enough for knee clearance.

5. Time

In automatic faucets or those with motion sensors, the water must be able to flow for about 10 seconds before going off. The best option when it comes to this is electronic metering faucets. They are hands-free but only effective if the water holds long enough to meet the 10-second demands by the ADA regulations.

Final Notes

People with disabilities have it rough when it comes to a physical barrier, mostly in public places. So, the ADA is in place to reduce this and make their lives as easy as possible. If you own a commercial or public building with shower facilities, you must adhere to the set standards. Unfortunately, most people unknowingly violate or overlook these codes of conduct. We hope that after reading the ADA Shower requirement guide above, you now know what to do.

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