Saturday, March 24, 2012

Toilet (WC) For Disabled People

Although there are many disabled people's toilets in Penang, most are not up to the requirements specified by Malaysian Standards, (at least not at the moment that I write this post). I noticed that many hotels, shopping centers and public buildings were not stingy, in both money and space, when they built these toilets. But sadly, many of these toilets just missed many of the subtleties required by the standards. I believe most people still do not know how to build a proper toilet for disabled people and hope this post can help them.

Important points to remember:
1. Toilet size should not be smaller than 1600 mm X 2000 mm. It must have enough space for wheelchair to manoeuvre inside.
2. Toilet sign must be clearly visible. Only internationally adopted symbol should be used.
3. The doors should be either of the sliding or outward-opening type.
4. Floor should not be slippery.
5. There must be knee space clearance under the basins.
6. Mirrors must be big enough so that it is usable by people who sit on wheelchair.
7. Door locks and taps should not be of the types that require pinching, tight grasping and fine finger control.
8. An emergency call button should be provided.
9. Doors should be of the type that can be opened from outside in case of emergency.
10. Layout and fixtures must be standardized so that people with visual impairment can find the paper, sink and place to flush the toilet.

Here is a layout plan of a good toilet.

Here is the side view of a good toilet (dimensions given in mm).

The three dimensional drawing below shows what the toilet should look like. Please note how the accessories are arranged together.

Why doors should either be sliding or open outward.

The drawing above shows the space needed for a wheelchair to manoeuvre inside the toilet. The wheelchair needs to turn 360 degree as well as to park beside the toilet bowl. Sliding doors or outward-opening doors maximise the space inside the toilet.

The photograph above shows why a wheelchair user is unable to shut the toilet door that open inward.

What are flip-up grab bars? Why are they important?

Flip-up grab bar is a grab bar that can flip up and down (see photos above). It must be able to flip-up to allow a person to transfer from his/her wheelchair to the toilet bowl (see drawings below).

Step 1: Wheelchair user positions his wheelchair beside the toilet bowl. The grab bar is in original position – down.

Step 2: Wheelchair user flips up the grab bar. The grab bar is no longer obstructing him from transferring to the toilet bowl.

Step 3: The wheelchair user transfers to toilet bowl. (The flip-up bar is still up.)

Step 4: The wheelchair user flips down the grab bar and sits securely on the toilet bowl.

This is the plan view of why a flip-up grab bar is important.

Here are some examples of unsuitable grab bars.

Right and wrong ways of fixing grab bars to the wall.

The above drawing shows the correct way (see the red arrow). The drawing below shows the wrong way (see the red arrow). Please note the verticle grab bar in relation to the sitting person. The grab bar must be reachable to the sitting person. It should not be far back and thus not reachable by the sitting person.

Here are examples of correctly fixed grab bars.

Here are examples of wrongly fixed grab bars.

The photo above shows a good example of a verticle grab bar that cannot be reached if a person is sitting on the toilet bowl. The photo below shows an example of a completely missing vertical grab bar.

Basins should have knee clearance.

The photo above shows an example of a basin with knee clearance. The photo below shows an example of a basin that is without knee clearance. A wheelchair user has problem getting close to the latter type of basin.

Suitable and unsuitable mirrors.

The photo above shows a mirror and can be used by a wheelchair use. The photo below shows a mirror that is too high for wheelcheel user.

Rubbish bins that use foot peddles to operate are unsuitable.

The simple rubbish bin in the photo above serves it purpose better than the rubbish bin in the photo below. Many people with disabilities do not have the ability to step on the peddle to open the lid of such rubbish bin.

Taps and door handles that do not require pinching, tight grasping and fine finger control.

Some people with disabilities have limited finger control, lever-type taps and door handles (as shown in photos above) are more suitable for them than those shown in photos below.

There is a need to standardize all toilets.

Toilet design must be standardized for people with visual impairment and people with learning disabilities. Any person can find the lever in the photo above (see red arrow). But in the photo below (see red arrow), the flush lever is located at an unusual place.

Notes: The specifications given here are based on:
1, Guidelines On Buildings Requirements For Disabled Persons, Bahagian Kawalan Bangunan, Jabatan Kerajaan Tempatan, Kementerian Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan, Malaysia, November 1999.
2, Malaysian Standard MS 1184.


  1. How and where can I get this type of the flip-up grab bars?

    1. They are quite easily available in Penang. May I know where are you from?

  2. Dear Mr Tan,
    I'd like to suggest you to post the latest building regulation as a reference to form the most comprehensive Penang guide to Disabled toilet layout.
    Thank you.

    Ween Fung

    1. Thank you for the good suggestion. Malaysian Standards (SIRIM) has just published a new standard which is a further elaboration from the previous one. I have bought a copy but for copyright reason I cannot print them here. Meanwhile the older standards are still good for most situations. Please go to the following website for a detailed explanation of the older standards.


  3. Thank you for the guidelines.

  4. Hi KA, I'm from Penang and would like to fix the rails for my Aunt. Can you please provide me contact info of certified contractors in the Butterworth area? Many thanks.

  5. Please send me your email address and I will send a phone number to the shop sells a good handrail. I think they can recommend you a good contractor. Regards. Tan

  6. your blog is very useful for architecture student.. keep it up

  7. I'm looking to teach my Brownies about disability awareness, and this is a very useful post. Thank you!