How Do I Make My Shower ADA Compliant?

When it comes to bathrooms, making the shower ADA compliant is a key step in making it wholesome. 

To make your shower ADA compliant, ensure it has roll-in access or a transfer seat, install strategic grab bars, use slip-resistant flooring, place controls and showerheads within easy reach, and adhere to specific ADA dimensions for safety and accessibility.

This guide by a shower remodel contractor provides detailed instructions and insights on how to modify your shower to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, ensuring safety, functionality, and accessibility for all users.

Understanding ADA Compliance for Showers

What is ADA Compliance?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets forth guidelines to ensure public spaces are accessible to people with disabilities. ADA compliance involves adhering to specific dimensions, features, and functionalities that accommodate individuals with various disabilities, promoting their independence and safety.

Why Make Your Shower ADA Compliant?

Ensuring your shower meets ADA standards is crucial for both residential and commercial properties. It fosters an inclusive environment and it also prevents accidents, enhances user independence, and, in commercial settings, ensures legal compliance to avoid penalties.

How Do I Make My Shower ADA Compliant1

Core Principles of ADA-Compliant Showers

The core principles of ADA-compliant showers are centered around ensuring accessibility, safety, and ease of use for individuals with disabilities. 

These principles are designed to accommodate a wide range of physical needs, ensuring that all users, including those who use wheelchairs or have other mobility issues, can independently use shower facilities. Here are the key principles that guide the design and functionality of ADA-compliant showers:

  • Accessibility: Ensure easy access for individuals with disabilities, with features like roll-in access for wheelchairs or transfer seats for manual transfers.

  • Safety: Incorporate grab bars in strategic locations, slip-resistant flooring, and eliminate sharp edges or obstacles to minimize accident risks.

  • Usability: Place shower controls, faucets, and showerheads within easy reach and ensure they can be operated effortlessly, without the need for tight grasping, pinching, or twisting.

  • Adaptability: Design showers to be flexible with adjustable features like showerheads and grab bars to accommodate the varying needs of users with disabilities.

  • Comfort and Dignity: Focus on the user's comfort and dignity by providing an environment that supports independence and a positive experience, including the use of comfortable materials and ensuring privacy.

  • Specific Design Requirements: Adhere to ADA standards for dimensions and equipment, such as the size of transfer and roll-in showers, the height and location of grab bars, and the placement of controls.

Types of ADA-Compliant Showers

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

  • Transfer Showers are designed for individuals who can move from a wheelchair to a built-in shower seat. These showers are typically 36 inches by 36 inches, allowing enough space for the individual to transfer safely.

  • Roll-in showers cater to users who need to enter the shower in a wheelchair. These showers have no curb and are large enough (minimum of 30 inches by 60 inches) to accommodate a wheelchair-turning radius, facilitating direct access.

How Do I Make My Shower ADA Compliant2

Step-by-Step Modifications for Compliance

Below, we outline a step-by-step approach to achieving compliance, ensuring your shower can accommodate users with varying mobility needs.

Step 1: Assess Your Current Shower Setup

The first step in making your shower ADA compliant is to assess your current setup. Measure the dimensions of your shower area to ensure it can accommodate the required turning radius for a wheelchair, typically at least 60 inches in diameter. Identify potential obstacles or barriers that need to be removed or modified.

Step 2: Expand Shower Space If Necessary

If your current shower space does not meet the minimum size requirements for ADA compliance, consider expanding it. This may involve removing walls or barriers, reconfiguring adjacent spaces, or even expanding into an adjoining room.

Step 3: Install Non-Slip Flooring

Safety is paramount in an ADA-compliant shower. Install non-slip flooring materials to prevent falls. Tiles with textured surfaces, non-slip vinyl, or rubber mats are excellent choices. Ensure the flooring material extends throughout the bathroom to maintain consistency and safety.

Step 4: Lower Shower Controls and Install Handheld Shower Heads

Shower controls and handheld shower heads should be easily reachable for individuals who use wheelchairs or have limited reach. Install shower controls and handheld shower heads at a height of approximately 48 inches from the shower floor.

Step 5: Incorporate a Barrier-Free Shower Entrance

Remove any thresholds or steps leading into the shower to create a barrier-free entrance. This modification ensures that individuals using wheelchairs or mobility aids can easily enter and exit the shower.

How Do I Make My Shower ADA Compliant3

Step 6: Install Grab Bars

Install grab bars within the shower area to provide support and stability for users. The ADA requires that grab bars be installed at specific heights and locations. Ensure they are securely anchored to support the required weight.

Step 7: Add a Shower Seat

Including a fold-down or permanent seat in the shower can significantly enhance usability for individuals with disabilities. The seat should be installed at a height of 17 to 19 inches from the shower floor and be capable of supporting up to 250 pounds.

Step 8: Ensure Proper Shower Enclosure

If your shower includes an enclosure, make sure it does not obstruct access. Sliding doors or curtains are often preferred for ease of use. Ensure that any enclosures allow for easy emergency access if needed.

Step 9: Verify Adequate Lighting

Good lighting is crucial in an ADA-compliant bathroom. Ensure your shower and the surrounding area are well-lit to accommodate users with visual impairments. Consider installing lights with motion sensors for easier use.

Step 10: Consult ADA Guidelines Throughout the Process

Throughout each step of your modification process, continuously refer back to the ADA guidelines to ensure compliance. These guidelines provide detailed specifications for each element of an ADA-compliant shower.

Step 11: Consider Professional Assessment

If you're unsure about any aspect of the compliance process, consider hiring a professional with experience in ADA modifications. They can provide valuable insights, ensure proper installation, and help avoid costly mistakes.

How Do I Make My Shower ADA Compliant4

FAQs on Making the Shower ADA Compliant

Can I make my existing shower ADA compliant, or do I need a complete renovation?

You can modify an existing shower to be ADA compliant, though the extent of modifications needed depends on your current setup. In many cases, adjustments to the shower size, installation of grab bars, and changes to controls can achieve compliance without a complete overhaul.

Are there specific materials recommended for ADA-compliant showers?

While the ADA does not mandate specific materials, choosing non-porous, slip-resistant, and durable materials for floors, walls, and seats is crucial for safety and longevity.

How do I ensure the grab bars are installed correctly?

Grab bars must be securely anchored into the wall to withstand a minimum of 250 pounds of force. It is often recommended to hire a professional familiar with ADA requirements to ensure proper installation.

What is the recommended door width for an ADA-compliant shower?

For roll-in showers, the entry should be at least 36 inches wide to accommodate wheelchair access. No door or a curtain can be used, but if a door is installed, it must open outward to maximize interior space.

Are there ADA compliance inspectors or certifications?

Yes, ADA compliance inspectors can evaluate your shower and other facilities to ensure they meet the guidelines. While not always required, obtaining a certification or inspection report can provide peace of mind and legal protection.

Meeting The Americans with Disabilities Act Standards

Adapting a shower to meet ADA compliance standards is a significant step towards creating an inclusive and accessible space for everyone.

By focusing on the key components of size and space, grab bars, shower seats, controls, and safe flooring, you can ensure your shower is compliant and also comfortable and safe for all users. 

With careful planning and adherence to ADA guidelines, making your shower accessible can be a straightforward and rewarding process, contributing to a more inclusive society.

Video of this post:

PDF version:

You may also be interested in these topics about Shower Safety and accessibility...

Do you live in Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe,  Sun Lakes, Laveen, or South Phoenix?

Ready to talk about your remodeling needs?

Take the next step...

About the author

Hi my name is Jeremy Maher. My wife, 2 kids and I went through Contractor Nightmares for 3 years straight.

Ben, Mark, and I teamed up to start Phoenix Home Remodeling to help homeowners remodel without the common contractor nightmares.

Learn more about Jeremy's expertise and topics he likes to write about on his author page.