Any change to restroom functionality inevitably turns to the question of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

There are specific mounting heights and other requirements of baby changing stations in restrooms, says ADA compliance expert Joan Stein, of Stein Consulting, Inc., Pittsburgh.

“They have to be mounted so that the very top of the changing table surface — when it is opened — cannot be any higher than 34 inches off the floor,” she says. “Plus, they have to be able to have clear floor space in front of it, for a frontal approach. When you’re facing the open changing table, you need to have 30 inches wide by 48 inches deep of clear floor space. This is so someone using a wheelchair can approach and have the clear floor space to be able to use the changing table.”

This can be an issue in restrooms where baby changing stations will only fit within a toilet stall.

“What happens is people leave the table open, which creates a barrier for someone in a wheelchair,” says Stein. “You have to make sure that with the table open, they still have 4 feet of depth from the edge of the table behind them.”

Distributors should tell facility staff that maintenance is a critical issue. When restroom patrons leave the baby changing tables open, it blocks travel access for those in wheelchairs, and very often someone with a disability may not have the strength to reach up and close the table, says Stein.

If restroom cleaning staff are mindful of the new law and its requirements, potential conflicts related to the space between a changing table and sinks and toilet stalls can be avoided.
Ultimately, it is important for sellers of the baby changing tables to have detailed conversations with their customers in order to understand a building’s specific dimensions.

Unfortunately, says Stein, distributors will quite often market a product as being ADA-compliant for the built environment when in fact the product is not. Therefore, she says it’s crucial for distributors to both understand the ADA more clearly in its specificity, as well as relay that to the customer.

Distributors should also be mindful of the ADA compliance of the dispensers and waste baskets related to the baby changing station, adds Stein. For example, no dispenser can be higher than 48 inches to the highest operating control. Also, any amenity cannot have a dispensing apparatus that requires tight grasping or twisting of the wrist to operate.

Jonathan DePaolis is a freelance writer based in Tinley Park, Illinois.

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