Q: Please let me know about toilets that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have a normal toilet as well as grab bars. My husband uses a walker at all times and has a difficult time sitting down and getting up from our toilet. Is there a catalog of items and information about plumbers who supply needed equipment?
A: Not long ago, we wrote a series of columns on adaptive aids for those of us who are physically challenged. We talked about the Americans with Disabilities Act and some of the requirements mandated by the federal government to assist the disabled. We mentioned an ADA-compliant toilet but neglected to describe it.
The basic difference between a standard toilet and an ADA-compliant model is the height.
Any plumber or competent do-it-yourselfer can install an ADA-compliant commode. They are readily available at any plumbing supply house or home center and range in price from around $200 to upward of $500 for premium brands.
We suggest you and your husband go to a plumbing showroom and "test-drive" the toilets. Have him sit on several and see which one best fits his seat and your pocketbook.
Standard toilets are 14 inches to 16 inches in height. The ADA version is 17 inches to 19 inches. Although this doesn’t sound like much, the added lift of up to 4 inches will allow your husband to more easily get his center of gravity under foot, which makes getting off the toilet easier.
There are two configurations of toilet designs that are considered standard. One is smaller and round and the other is larger and elongated. Kevin opted for the round model in his downstairs half-bath and wishes he hadn’t. Elongated models cost a bit more but are much more comfortable. With either model, the key is the added height.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of replacing a toilet, you can modify your existing toilet. There are risers that add up to 6 inches in height, but an ADA-compliant commode is a permanent, more comfortable fix.
Before going out and purchasing a new toilet, we strongly suggest you get specific code information from your local building department. Local laws, while generally consistent, can vary in the details from town to town.
If you decide to opt for a new toilet, you may have to reposition the grab bars to allow your husband to comfortably back into the space using his walker.