Savvy systems integrators are always on the lookout for emerging trends that can help grow their businesses. Demand for barrier-free restroom control is steadily increasing, and it’s a market that integrators can proactively prepare for.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and subsequent ADA Amendments Act that resulted in Standards for Accessible Design has led many installers to specify barrier-free systems for the control of automatic doors in restroom applications. Similarly in Canada, New Accessibility Amendments to Ontario’s Building Code came into effect in 2015 and additional amendments for increased support were put in place in early 2020.

Canada has one single nationwide building code, but until recently, the United States has had a federal standard for federal buildings and programs only, while each state and local government has established its own building codes. That was changed by the ADA, which has set federal standards for all public accommodations, including portions of commercial facilities and transportation systems. Authority now lies with each state and local government to adopt and enforce its own building codes, but the office of the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights does have the authority under the ADA to certify that a state or local building code meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of ADA.

So even though requirements vary from state to state in the U.S., many jurisdictions are introducing new mandates for barrier-free restroom control. And while touchless solutions in restrooms (such as automatic soap dispensers and hand dryers) have taken on greater traction in the COVID-19 age, not to be overlooked by integrators is the rising demand for barrier-free access solutions of automatic doors and emergency call systems in restroom applications.

The use of automatic door operators in restrooms is increasing dramatically in order to provide better service for people with disabilities. A universal restroom is defined by code as a restroom that has been designed for ease of use by the general public as well as one that provides facilities for people with disabilities. Requirements include a wide range of components, such as an ample radius for a

wheelchair to turn, counters at an accessible height and grip bars to support someone with disabilities.

Two separate systems for restroom control are the control of automatic door operators to provide a secure, effective and simple means of access control at the point of entry into a toilet or other space, and emergency call systems.

Complete barrier-free restroom control systems provide a comprehensive equipment package for compliance with building code requirements. They are typically designed for universal restrooms with one or two doors and include: a door control relay, ‘PUSH TO LOCK’ and ‘PUSH TO OPEN’ push plate switches to activate the door operator and the option for audible and visual ‘OCCUPIED’ annunciation.

Emergency call systems in barrier-free and universal washrooms are requirements of the Ontario Building Code and should also be viewed as a model for emerging code requirements for emergency call systems in universal washrooms across all of North America. Emergency call systems help occupants who require emergency assistance by signaling an alert for help by activating conveniently located pull-cord switches, call transmitters or other emergency switches. In the event of an emergency, the occupant simply pushes an emergency button and an audible and visual signal will activate to call for help.

For installers and systems integrators, specifying a barrier-free, accessible restroom doesn’t have to be a challenge, but rather an opportunity. High quality, ADA-compliant, barrier-free restroom control kits and emergency call systems from a trusted manufacturer-partner make it easy to design a barrier-free bathroom.