Common Washroom Issues Wheelchair Travellers Face & How to Fix Them?

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Could you imagine going to a place having no washrooms? But, this is many common bathroom problems faced by wheelchair travellers.

As a wheelchair traveller, I  have listed out some of the most common issues faced by wheelchair travellers. I have also provided suggestions on how these can be resolved. 

39 Distinctive Bathroom Problems Faced by Wheelchair Travellers & Their Solutions

Being a wheelchair user, I think public convenience is a huge inconvenience because their layout lacks consideration of the needs of all. The infrastructure developers forget that everyone has the right to sanitation – which means a basic necessity like washrooms should be accessible, appropriately designed, hygienic, secure, and safe for all.

Here are some of the most common bathroom problems faced by wheelchair travellers and what can be done about them –


No Proper Signage

All public places, monuments, restaurants, and hotels must have duly displayed and lit signage boards inside the premises. Getting wheelchair signage pins as accessible place locators on Google Maps would benefit people with disabilities a lot.


Lack of Information

Detailed and complete information on accessible washrooms in tourist maps and brochures can help disabled people to plan journeys well. Toilet locator apps for a city can be beneficial too.


Tucked Away Toilets

Washrooms must be located near the center of a public place instead of tucked away. Going through a long way with a mobility aid is stressful.


No Accessible Cabin/ Toilet

Every public place must have a separate accessible toilet/ cabin to facilitate people with physical impairments.


Locked Accessible Washroom

Certain places which keep the accessible toilet locked to prevent unnecessary usage by the common public is justified. But, there must be a staff appointed with a key outside the washroom; alternatively, contact number for the key mentioned on the door would also help.


Dual Usage of the Wheelchair-Friendly Washroom

Such washrooms should never have a clubbed use as a baby’s changing station/feeding room as, amenities like a feeding bench/wall-mounted changing table could be risky and uncomfortable for disabled people. Also, it would be sheer injustice to people with special needs to keep them waiting unnecessarily long.


Rough and Cobblestone Pathways

Smooth stone or wooden pathway flooring enhance the accessibility level.


No/ Broken Ramps 

It is imperative to design ramps with a minimum width of 36 inches and an elevation angle of 45 degree approximately for better access. To avoid a broken ramp situation, the maintenance team should check the condition of ramps frequently.


Poor Lit Pathways/ Ramps

Proper lighting on pathways and ramps is beneficial for a hassle-free approach.


A Minimal Step Near the Toilet Door

The architect must ensure that no floor rising stone is used (creating a minimal step) on either side of the ramp leading to the toilet door. Such tiny hindrances defeat the purpose of ramps.


Higher Money Change Machines

Money change machines used to access the toilet must be at a low height.


Inaccessible and Risky Sanitizer Dispenser

Post COVID sanitizer dispenser is mandatory. But placing them at a low height/ hand level would be convenient.


Non-sliding Door

Using sliding door can provide more space for rotating a wheelchair and helps to move in without obstruction. Moreover, pushing a door at a wheelchair level is difficult.


Narrow Door Widths

To be wheelchair friendly, entry door of the washrooms and accessible toilet cabin should have a minimum width of 32 inches.


Inappropriate Door Handles

Door handles must be in reach of a wheelchair user. Always use strong, classic door handles instead of rotating and locking knobs.


Out-Of-Reach Door Latch

A toilet door latch should be within reach and easy to operate for a wheelchair user.


No Trained Staff for Assistance

A disabled person must be involved in training housekeeping staff to make them learn to assist people in need properly and empathetically.


Accessible Toilet Cabins Made Inside the Male or Female Washrooms

Accessible toilets must be separate; so that an accompanying friend/ relative of a different gender can support and help the disabled person comfortably if required.


Less Maneuvering Spaces

All public and accessible washrooms must have ample maneuvering space (preferably 360 degrees) for wheelchair users.


Coloured and Dim Lights

A well-lighted washroom increases safety and security for everyone compared to colored and dim lights.


High Sanitary Pad Wending Machines

The trend of Pink Washrooms for ladies is growing in India. It would become more thoughtful; if sanitary pad vending machine placed at a low level to facilitate every woman.


Cleanliness and Hygiene Issues

These issues would be unpleasant for everyone. Hence, housekeeping team should have a round-the-clock cleaning service and place a duty chart in the washroom with the mobile number of the housekeeping administrator for an emergency.


Unusable Foot Pedal Dustbins

Considering the accessibility and hygiene factor, swing lid dustbins must be placed in the washroom.


No Emergency Buzzer/ Cord

It is mandatory to have an emergency buzzer/cord at the reach of the toilet seat. A frequent check is required to ensure it is functional constantly.


Missing Hand/ Grab Rails

Placing wall-mounted hand/ grab rails is the basic necessity of an accessible washroom.


Uncomfortable Toilet Seat

The height of the toilet seat from the floor should be between 17 inches – 19 inches from the floor for someone to shift from wheelchair to seat.


In-Wall Flush Tanks with Heavy Flush Valve

It is challenging to use such a flush valve wall-mounted behind the toilet seat. Hence, simple yet water-conserving flush tanks would be the best to use.


Poor Layout of Equipment Inside Toilet

For a perfect layout and proper placement of equipment /fixtures in an accessible washroom, designers must involve people with different disabilities. Because these people will be the best resource for designing, checking equipment standards, and writing guidelines for usage.


Incorrectly Mounted Toilet Shower and Toilet Roll Holder

Both these toilet fixtures should be wall-mounted near the toilet seat and have easy access for a wheelchair user.


No Shelf Bracket Inside the Restroom

A small shelf bracket at a low height inside the restroom would be advantageous for people with disabilities to keep a purse, mobile, folding stick, etc. Since, high-hanging hooks are a discomfort for a wheelchair user.


Higher Sink/ Bathroom Sink Height

It is required to keep the sink/bathroom sink height low to use it conveniently and avoid water splashing.


Rotating Sink Taps

Reachable hands-free/ sensor taps on the sink would be more comfortable and conserve water.


Unreachable Sink Tap and Soap Dispenser

Sink Tap and soap dispenser should not be beyond the reach of a physically challenged person.


Slippery/ Vitrified Tile Flooring

Such flooring should never be used, as they can lead to grave accidents when wet.


Hand-Driers on Height

It is essential to have low-height hand-driers so that a wheelchair user doesn’t have to bear heat waves on the face. Besides that, properly dried hands help to gain a better grip on mobility aids.


Out-Of-Reach C-Fold Tissue Dispenser

Having a wall-mounted C-fold tissue dispenser at a low height instead of Hand-driers would prevent people from loud noise problems and dry heat allergies.


No Water in Toilet Taps and Flush Tanks

Good water supply in the Toilet tap and flush tanks makes it convenient to use for all.


Small Mirrors at Higher Level

Placing a full-length mirror on the wall or behind the washroom door could be helpful instead of small mirrors fixed at a higher level.


Unreachable Electric Switches and Plug Sockets

Having electrical switches and socket boards at waist height is helpful to the wheelchair user.

People with disabilities face many hurdles courageously in daily routine. But, just a simple thought of inclusivity can grant them independent access to basic necessity and leisurely activities.

About the Author

Ramanpreet is an inspiring Wheelchair Traveler based out of India. After being diagnosed with the condition of partial transverse myelitis, Raman did not quit on traveling. In fact, she took it upon herself to not only continue her passion for wanderlust but also make hundreds of other accessible travelers aware, confident and high on life.


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