Navigating Public Restrooms With Mobility Challenges – Showerbuddy

Navigating Public Restrooms With Mobility Challenges

Navigating Public Restrooms With Mobility Challenges

Public toilets are a common source of worry for families with a mobility impaired individual. Despite more efforts being made in modern times to create a more accessible world, there’s still arguably a shortage of good accessible bathroom options. Even the most forward-thinking cities can pose a challenge for someone needing to use a bathroom nearby easily. In this article we’ll explore some ways to navigate this public bathroom dilemma easier.

Why public restrooms can present a big challenge for mobility-impaired people

Unfortunately most bathrooms – both in the public area and within the stalls, aren’t designed for those with disabilities. When there is a disabled toilet stall in the toilets, it’s often occupied. And when you can access the disabled toilets, it’s not a guarantee that the design will accommodate all needs such as grab bars, a sink height that’s accessible and a doorway that allows a wheelchair or walker to clear easily.

Lots of restaurants and cafes often have their toilets take up a pretty small footprint in relation to the building – sometimes there’s only one non- accessible toilet to be used.

The lighting can also be poor which is a hazard for any mobility impaired person, even without a visual impairment. This can be even more difficult when the floor has water or other spills across it.

If there’s not an accessible stall that allows a carer to attend to the individual, then privacy is another big concern – who wants to use the toilet with the door open whilst in public?

There’s not nearly enough accessible bathrooms in our communities – and with a big percentage of the population experiencing some sort of physical impairment, we’d like to see more public facilities available.

Doing the research on accessible bathrooms in your area

So what can we do to make public toilet use more accessible and less stressful? The first thing to do is research the town or city you’re in. A quick search engine search can give you some clues about where the community toilets are located and whether they offer disabled stalls or not. If you’re travelling, you can also research the tourist locations in each area you plan on visiting and check that they have accessible facilities to use.

In your own town or city, it can be a good idea to map out all the known accessible toilets before and after you’ve tried them. Most map tools on a smartphone can allow you to ‘drop a pin’ on locations where you can label locations known to be good for accessibility.

Ensuring an easy (and safe) entry and exit

Make sure to choose public restrooms that have even, safe flooring for a mobility impaired individual to walk across or for a wheelchair/walker to be used on. The doorways will need to be wide enough to accommodate assistive equipment, the user and a carer without issue. Grab bars are also an excellent addition to a public restroom as the individual may be able to manoeuvre themselves easier without help. The door itself should be easy to open, close and importantly, lock with minimal resistance. Depending on the level of impairment, it may be safe to use the toilet without a carer, but it’s important that the individual can safely get themselves in and out of the stall without issue.

Accessibility features to look for in a bathroom stall

There are some compliance regulations around accessible bathrooms in modern buildings – these vary from country to country (or state to state). But here’s some typical features you should look out for:

  • Comfortable space for a wheelchair and carer to fit as well as the user. The area should allow for easy 360 movement and quick evacuation.
  • Grab bars – as we’ve mentioned, these are excellent for users to get more stability or to move around the stall in a wheelchair.
  • Low toilets – the standard toilet height can present a challenge to mount for those with lower body or back mobility issues.
  • Easy locking and unlocking
  • Anti-slip flooring – the last thing anyone wants to deal with is a slippery floor that can create a fall injury.
  • Emergency call system – calling for help if stuck or in the event of an emergency is something every accessible toilet should offer.

Safely using the toilet

One of the risky areas of a public toilet is the maintenance (or lack thereof) to the toilet seat. With frequent use, the fittings on a toilet can start to wear. The problem is amplified when the user doesn’t have the ability to steady themselves should the seat slip off the bowl slightly. The attempt to overcorrect or simply lack the mobility to do anything can result in a nasty accident.
Make sure to check that the toilet itself in an accessible bathroom is in good condition and safe for use. If not, it might be worth calling the phone number listed in the stall and draw their attention to a maintenance issue needing to be sorted.


It’s also a good idea to make use of any supports installed – most commonly grab bars. If the individual has the upper body strength and ability to use these, it can provide a much safer toileting experience.

Transferring onto the toilet can become a hazardous movement – one of the many reasons why the SB7e Eco Traveller from Showerbuddy is so popular – the chair fits over the toilet requiring no manual transfer or contact with the toilet seat (a great benefit from those with concerns about public restroom hygiene!)

Hygiene and cleaning up

Navigating public restrooms isn’t just about reducing the hazards associated with falls. It’s also about staying hygienic throughout the process. If you’re using the toilet (or helping someone to do so) in public, we’d suggest bringing some provisions in the day pack with you to keep things clean:

  • Hand sanitiser
  • Anti-bacterial wipes
  • Small hand wash
  • Change of clothes

The bathroom should hopefully be clean enough to use, but this won’t always be the case. It’s important to alert attendants to any cleanliness issues so they’re sorted out quickly.

Other things to look for are soap dispensers and basin taps that have easily-reachable buttons/levers. A well-equipped toilet will make washing up simple and struggle-free.

Drying off

Different bathrooms will be equipped with different drying solutions. Most commonly a hot air hand dryer or disposable paper towel dispenser will be there to use. Make sure that these can be reached safely from a wheelchair or other mobility device. If not, it may be necessary to have a caregiver put a towel within reach or even assist with drying of hands. It might take a bit longer to dry off, like many of the steps in using the bathroom with a mobility impairment.

More accessible bathrooms needed

Having to travel a distance to find a disabled toilet is a real problem for families that need these facilities. Sometimes the extra distance can mean the difference between a safe visit and messy clean up. We’re making good progress the world over with disabled facilities, but still a long way off creating a universally-accessible bathroom experience for the growing number of mobility impaired individuals who need it.


At Showerbuddy we provide a solution to help make almost any bathroom a mobility-friendly experience. For out of home users, we’d encourage you to check out the SB7e Eco Traveller. This comfortable, compact option can alleviate many of the concerns we’ve highlighted in this article.

Learn more about Showerbuddy Sb7e

It can be challenging finding the perfect accessible bathroom wherever you go – especially if away on holiday somewhere you’re not familiar with. Showerbuddy’s SB7e EcoTraveller is an excellent answer to this challenge, with its compact design and easy pack-down. The SB7e turns almost any bathroom into an accessible one, bringing the comfort of the Showerbuddy range out of the home. You can learn more about Showerbuddy or, get in touch with our team to arrange a demo with your nearest distributor.

Further Reading

The information in this article is intended as general information only and is not a replacement for official health guidance by your local medical providers. Please always consult an occupational therapist and/or local healthcare for more specific guidance.