Illustration: Michael Kirkham

Illustration: Michael Kirkham

Grab-bars in restroom stalls are one of the most ubiquitous and visible improvements that have come about since the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Yet a design team from MKM Architecture + Design, working on a rehabilitation facility in Grand Rapids, Mich., found that the standard grab-bars weren’t working for patients on the mend from automobile accidents, closed head wounds, and strokes. Achieving ADA compliance, in other words, was in step with the law, but out of step with reality.

In consultation with therapists and staff, the architects conducted a study and found that the standard grab-bars were too high. They instead designed a facility with grab-bars that were lower, closer together, and on both sides of the commode. Michigan’s Barrier Free Design Board agreed, and the design was approved.