How To Make a Toilet More Accessible

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Modify an existing toilet or install a new one. Either way, an accessible toilet is just an upgrade away.

Maybe a family member has changing needs. Or maybe you just want to make it easier to stay in your home as you age.  No matter what’s driving your interest in accessible toilets, there’s good news: You have options.

You can go the simple route and add a lift seat to your current toilet, or replace the toilet with one that’s easier for those with mobility issues to navigate. The latter is more complicated but not terribly disruptive.

Andrea Hysmith, founder and owner of ASH Interiors and Design in Ellicott City, Maryland, designs accessible kitchens and bathrooms. Here, she shares her advice on toilets.

What Is the Standard Accessible Toilet Height?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets accessibility requirements for commercial buildings. Though the law doesn’t apply to residences, its offers a useful guide for making your home more accessible. The ADA requires the rim of the toilet bowl to be 17 to 19 inches above the floor; standard toilet height is 14-1/2-inches.

“A 16-1/2-inch to 18-inch height makes it easier for someone to stand up, but also easier to transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet,” says Hysmith. However, the higher seat is more difficult for children and able-bodied adults to use comfortably.

What Do You Need for an Accessible Toilet?

To make a toilet accessible, you’ll need these items:

  • Taller toilet. Many manufacturers now make ADA-compliant toilets for homes in styles to match your design preferences. “It doesn’t have to look like a bathroom in a restaurant,” says Hysmith. For an existing toilet, you can add a seat riser.
  • Grab bars. “Locate grab bars to the left or the right of a toilet, depending on its location,” says Hysmith. “Ideally, attach one to the back wall that comes out in an L-shape or a loop. They should be placed about 34 to 38 inches off the ground.”
  • Lever. If you’re installing a new toilet, consider the flushing mechanism. A lever on the front of the toilet might be better. “And a push button on the top of the tank can sometimes be easier to use,” says Hysmith.
  • Bidet. “If someone has a hard time cleaning themselves after using the toilet, a bidet is very helpful,” says Hysmith. You can purchase a new toilet with a built-in bidet, add a bidet toilet seat, or add a bidet attachment to an existing toilet.

What Are the Required Floor Space Dimensions for an Accessible Toilet?

“Standard building code calls for at least 30 inches of space from side to side for a toilet, so 15 inches from the center of the toilet to a wall or vanity,” says Hysmith. “ADA doesn’t have guidelines for this, but it does require 60 inches diameter of clear space in the bathroom to make it ADA compliant.”

That space allows a wheelchair to fully rotate without hitting obstructions. It also would make it easier to transfer from a wheelchair to a toilet.

Best Accessible Toilets to Buy

“A toilet is one of the easiest things to switch out,” says Hysmith. “A plumber can do it in less than an hour.”

It’s a relatively easy DIY project to swap out a toilet. Look for models with higher rim heights and other options that might make them easier to use.

Many companies make toilets with chair-height seats, about two inches taller than the standard height of 14-1/2-in. to the rim. Hysmith recommends several manufacturers. We chose models we like in three categories:

  • Value: American Standard Cadet ($383): “These are a good value at a great price point,” says Hysmith, “yet they function well and you can find some on-trend designs, too.”
  • Mid-range: Kohler San Rafael ($844): “Kohler has beautiful designs that meet ADA guidelines,” says Hysmith. “And they don’t look like commercial handicap toilets.”
  • Splurge: Toto Neorest ($5,362): “Toto was the first to give us water-efficient toilets,” says Hysmith. “They have lots of options, including different ways to flush, a bidet toilet seat, heated seats and other functions.”

Kathleen Childers
Kathleen Childers, a Minnesota-based writer, covers topics about home and life for a variety of clients.