Sanitary fittings

Sanitary fittings should be easy to locate and use for both standing and seated users.

Sanitary fittings should be easy to locate and identify with their operation easy to understand and suitable for both standing and seated users.

Location of fittings

Most building users will appreciate when fittings are in logical positions and contrasted against their background. White fittings on a white background make identification difficult irrespective of the light conditions.

Some people with low vision may use their residual vision to see the fittings if they contrast well while others may locate sanitary fittings by searching with their hands.

Sometimes it is difficult (in low light or for those who have low vision) to visually identify where the toilet pan is and if the toilet seat is up or down. This can be made much easier if a contrasting coloured toilet seat was installed. In existing buildings, matching toilet seats could be changed to one of a contrasting colour.

Design consideration

  • Ensure sanitary fittings are located in logical positions.
  • Ensure sanitary fittings and their operating component parts (flush mechanisms, toilet seats, taps, controls and buttons) contrast with the background they are seen against.

Operation of fittings

The purpose of a sanitary fitting and how it operates should be obvious and intuitive. While new designs may meet needs, until building users are familiar with them there could be misunderstanding.

Design consideration

  • Ensure that the purpose of the fittings and its operation is obvious.
  • Ensure fittings that do similar things but operate differently are differentiated from each other by visual and tactile means.
  • Where possible, specify controls and features that operate without the use of a physical input (such as hands-free sensor operated flush, taps, hand dryers and soap dispensers).
  • Ensure new products on the market are intuitive and easy to operate. Where visual and tactile signage indicating their function would be helpful, this should be provided.

Position of fittings

Sanitary fittings should be positioned where they are able to be approached and used by all building users. Effectively, this means suitability for standing and seated users or multiple fittings.
Significant force can be exerted on sanitary equipment when people use them as supports or to stop them falling.

Sanitary fittings that deliver items such as toilet paper should not be oversized. While this may reduce refilling time, there is a possibility that their bulk impacts on the use of the space and ease of use.

Design consideration

  • Fittings should be located in positions that are appropriate for all users.
  • Ensure structural supports are installed in wall structures for the attachment of proposed or possible sanitary fittings.
  • Ensure all sanitary fittings are of the strongest commercial quality and mounted on surfaces designed to support them.
  • Ensure sanitary fittings are of an appropriate size and do not affect the use of the space.

Number of fittings

The number of fittings installed needs to reflect the anticipated needs of building users. Establishing the likely proportion of male vs. female, adult vs. child etc., the numbers likely in each group and the likely time required for each operation, will inform this decision.

Toilet suites

Toilets in New Zealand are invariably designed for use in a sitting posture. However a squatting posture is widespread in many countries and tourists may think it is an acceptable practice here.

The height of the toilet seat will determine how easy it is to get on and off the seat. As building users vary in stature, and wheelchairs vary in size, the selected height should be a compromise that most users can accommodate. Children will require a lower seat than adults and wheelchair users a higher seat.

Where an adult seat height is too low, some building users will find difficulty in using it especially when trying to stand.

Design consideration

  • Ensure toilet seat heights meet the needs of expected users.
  • Ensure automatic activated flush systems are set to operate only when all toilet activity has been completed.
  • Either install buffers each side of the seat or ensure the seat hinges have adequate lateral strength. Many proprietary hinges are not strong enough to support transfer from a wheelchair.
  • Ensure toilets have colour contrast with their immediate background (walls and floors).


Urinals are generally found in most male toilets but are not installed in some commercial developments.

For males, the urinal is generally the most used sanitary fitting so should be positioned where travel distances are shortest. It is important to shield sightlines from the door and via mirrors.

Urinals come in different designs and can be fixed at various heights. As long as the design is suitable, the lower the height the more males that can use it. Traditionally, urinals for children are fixed at lower heights.

Dividers or privacy screens are sometimes installed between urinals although opinions vary as to whether they are necessary or even effective.

Some male wheelchair users prefer to use accessible urinals as they are able to remain seated and not have to transfer to a toilet seat. Where an accessible urinal is installed in a male washroom, a suitable wash handbasin also needs to be provided.

Urinals should contrast with their background and have tactile features such as contrasting floor textures and colours at ground level to alert building users of their presence.

Design consideration

  • Position urinals out of sight of external circulation space but near the toilet entry point.
  • Ensure a level floor surface for approach to the urinal.
  • Install a proportion of urinals at a lower height.
  • Consider the installation of privacy screens or partitions between each urinal.
  • At accessible urinals, ensure there is space available for approach and use by wheelchair users.
  • Ensure urinals contrast in colour with their immediate background.

Wash basins

Wash hand basins should be in a logical position and convenient to use in all toilet facilities. This means that they may need to be installed at different heights to suit wheelchair users, children or standing adults. Wash handbasins will probably be approached head on by a wheelchair user so space under the basin is essential.

Larger washbasins enable people to have a full body-wash, to wash their hair and items of personal care equipment. If the taps are out of reach, wheelchair users may fill the basin with water before transferring to the toilet seat.

Where wheelchair users have a bowel accident, they will want to wash while seated on the toilet. Where wash basins are too far away from the pan, this is not possible unless a shower hose attachment is available.

Design consideration

  • Position wash basins in logical positions that will not interfere with the use of the space.
  • Ensure wash hand basins are at heights suitable for those expected to use them.
  • Where building users could be expected to wash more than just their hands, provide additional floor space and a larger wash basin.
  • Ensure there is space below wash basins to allow wheelchair users to approach head on.
  • Ensure the basins contrast with the background – including bench tops.
  • In existing buildings where the wash basin is too far away from the accessible toilet, consider the installation of a shower hose to allow washing while seated.


Wherever possible, taps should be automatic to reduce the spread of bacteria by minimising hand contact with surfaces.

Separate hot and cold taps with a plug for the basin are designed to allow the mixing of water in the bowl. This provision is only necessary where a quantity of water at a desired temperature is required (for instance, for washing hair in the basin). To mix water, a plug in the sink is essential.

Hands are generally placed under the flow of water from a single tap. The provision of individual hot and cold taps may therefore result in building users washing their hands in water at extremes of temperature.

Taps need to be clearly marked with temperature indications. While the general convention is that the hot tap is on the left, this has not always been followed in some existing buildings.

Taps should be easy to use. While cross head taps are familiar to some building users they need to be gripped and turned which can cause problems for others. Manually operated taps should be able to be operated with the flat of the hand or wrist.

The easiest facility to use is a sensor operated tap where water is automatically mixed to the correct temperature. While this will reduce the amount of water used it may confuse some building users who may not know how to operate it.

Generally, people prefer to put their hands under water that is being delivered towards them. However, in accessible toilets this means that the mixer tap may be out of reach at the far side of the wash basin from the toilet.

Taps need to extend far enough into the basin to allow hands to be placed underneath without touching the sides.

Central mixer taps can restrict the ability to fill containers or kettles or wash out urine bottles, especially where sinks are not very large or deep.

The water pressure supplied via the tap should be adjustable so that it does not spray or splash the person or adjacent surfaces.

The temperature of hot water delivered to the taps (and the delivery pipework) should be restricted to reduce the possibility of injury. However, the temperature at which it is stored and circulated needs to be higher to avoid the risk of Legionella. Thermostatic control is therefore needed at the delivery point.

Pipes can sometime reduce space in toilet facilities and if they are in a position where they could be used as a support (for instance, in an accessible toilet) are likely to be damaged.

Design consideration

  • Consider sensor operated taps with water delivered at a pre-determined temperature.
  • Where manual taps are used, install mixer taps with a lever operation able to be operated with the flat of the hand or wrist.
  • Avoid the use of separate hot and cold taps for wash hand basins.
  • Ensure taps have a long enough spout for people to be able to put their hands under the water flow without touching the basin sides.
  • Avoid installing mixer taps where they may impact on the ability to fill containers or rinse out urine bottles.
  • Ensure the pressure of the water supplied to taps is adjustable.
  • Ensure the temperature of water supplied to hot taps is controllable.
  • Ensure water delivered to taps in sanitary facilities is of drinking quality unless clearly marked.
  • Ensure water supply and waste pipes are concealed wherever possible.
  • Ensure taps are clearly marked with temperature indications.

Accessible showers

A wheelchair user will need to be sitting down to take a shower. As they will not want their own chair to get wet, they may need to transfer to another chair or fixed seat. Some people will be unable to make that transfer without the use of a hoist.

The fixed seat should be firmly attached to the wall and drop down to allow the most flexibility of use of the space. Drop down legs can also add to the security of the seat.

An effective shower curtain (able to be opened and closed from the seat) is required to prevent their wheelchair and other areas in the room from getting wet.

The entry into the shower area needs to be level but an effective drain is required. As the floor needs to slope away from the remainder of the room, this needs to be considered during the design phase to ensure that floor levels are set appropriately.

The shower controls and shower head need to be in a convenient place to allow operation from the seat.

The temperature of the water should be possible to confirm prior to the user getting under the flow of water.

While a fixed shower head is less vulnerable to vandalism or theft, it does not allow a user to direct the flow of water to where they want it.

Some public swimming pools have shower water controls on a timer to prevent people having lengthy showers. It is important that the button is reachable by a mobility-impaired user without them having to get up and move over to re-activate the button.

Fixtures and fitting should contrast with their background to assist location, identification and navigation around.

Design consideration

  • Position shower controls away from the flow of water from shower heads.
  • Provide a fold down seat suitable for transfer from a wheelchair.
  • Ensure shower controls are easily operable from the shower seat.
  • Consider an additional fold down seat clear of the shower to allow users to dry themselves.
  • Ensure a suitable shower curtain is installed operable from the seat.
  • Ensure level entry into the shower which is then set to falls to a drain.
  • Ensure a hand held shower head is provided with the shower rail long enough for both standing and seated users.
  • Provide structurally supported grab rails in reach of the shower seat.
  • Ensure all fittings have colour contrast with the background.

Accessible baths

For a wheelchair user to have a bath, they need to be able to transfer from their chair into the bath. This can be done either with a hoist or a level extension at the end of the bath to form a transfer seat.

Prior to entering the bath, and to remain independent, a wheelchair user will need to be able to operate the plug and fill the bath to the desired temperature. This will require these features to be easy to use and within comfortable range of someone seated in a wheelchair.

Where possible, a securely fixed seat should be installed in the room to allow people to change their clothes or rest.

Design consideration

  • Ensure a method of transfer is available for a wheelchair user into the bath.
  • Provide a securely fixed seat to allow for rest or drying.
  • Ensure baths have contrast with the background.
  • Ensure taps and the plugs for the bath are usable from a wheelchair.

Grab rails

The purpose of a grab rail is to support a building user, so they need to be installed on structural supports able to resist the anticipated loads.

Provide grab rails where building users most need support (ie. in accessible toilets, shower rooms, bathrooms, a single sex cubicle and either side of one urinal).

In new buildings or refurbishments where the installation of grab rails is anticipated supports in the wall should be incorporated. The existence and the position of these supports should be recorded in the Building Manual and supported by photographs taken before the wall lining is installed.

The grab rail should contrast in colour to the background.

Design consideration

  • Position grabrails where they are needed for support.
  • Ensure the material and diameter of grab rails allows their safe use when wet.
  • Consider the provision of grab rails to at least one standard toilet cubicle.
  • Consider the provision of grab rails to the side of one urinal.
  • Install structural supports in walls under construction if grab rails are anticipated.
  • Record the position of structural supports in the Building Manual.
  • Ensure grab rails are colour contrasted with the background.

Toilet paper dispensers

Toilet paper dispensers should be suitable for single handed use. They should be reachable and usable by people seated on the toilet and by men standing.

The paper in large commercial dispensers often gets trapped inside and is then difficult to find. This is a problem for all building users but especially those with dexterity or vision impairments.

Commercial dispensers are generally specified to reduce cost but can have a significant adverse effect on building users.

Toilet paper dispensers should contrast with the background.

Design consideration

  • Ensure the toilet paper dispenser is positioned in front of the user within easy reach of a person in either a seated or standing position.
  • Select commercial dispensers where the end of the roll is easy to find by visual and tactile means and where the unit cannot be over-filled.
  • Ensure toilet paper can be obtained by the use of only one hand.
  • In accessible toilet cubicles, ensure the position of toilet paper dispensers does not impact on the use of the grab rail or the movement of a seated user.
  • In single sex toilet cubicles, ensure that the size of the commercial toilet paper dispenser selected is taken into account when choosing the size of the cubicle and the position of the pan on the back wall.
  • Ensure toilet paper dispensers are a contrasting colour to the background.

Soap dispensers

Soap dispensers should be reachable from a standing or seated position.

Soap dripping on to the floor presents a slip hazard. Positioning the soap dispenser over the wash basin may prevent this.

It should be obvious from the design whether the dispenser is sensor operated or requires a pull or push action. The levers to operate the dispenser should be large enough for use by people with dexterity or reduced hand or arm movement.

Soap dispensers should contrast with the background.

Design consideration

  • Position soap dispensers where they will not drip on the floor but be convenient for use.
  • Ensure the method for obtaining soap is simple to establish and able to be completed easily with one hand.
  • Ensure soap is available at each wash hand basin without having to move within the space.
  • Ensure soap dispensers are in a contrasting colour to the background.

Towel dispensers

Towel dispensers should be reachable and usable from the position where a person has just washed their hands. For instance, someone using crutches will not want to have to use their crutches to move from the wash hand basin to dry their hands.

Towel dispensers located behind mirrors over wash basins are often difficult to locate because they cannot be seen from a standing position.

Slim line towel dispensers can be difficult to operate and may result in surfaces being touched when trying to obtain a towel.

Towel dispensers should contrast with the background.

Design consideration

  • Ensure towel dispensers are easily visible, identifiable and located close to wash hand basins.
  • Ensure hand towels can be obtained with the use of a single hand.
  • Whether paper towels are dispensed on demand or manually grasped, ensure the operation is clearly marked and not reliant on touching part of the dispenser casing.
  • If automatic hand dryers are provided, ensure they are in addition to paper towels.
  • Ensure towel dispensers are a contrasting colour to the background.

Hand dryers

Like towel dispensers, hand dryers should be reachable and usable from the position where a person has just washed their hands. Noise levels from some hot air dryers can be excessive and may cause anxiety for some people.

Where hands need to be inserted into the top of the dryer, the installation height needs to take into account whether the user is seated, of small stature or standing. Where these dryers are planned, the size and layout of the facility may need to be adjusted to ensure they do not impact on space required for wheelchair movement.

Some building users may not be able to use these facilities so hand towel dispenser should always be installed.

Hand dryers should contrast with the background.

Design consideration

  • Position hand dryers in a convenient location close to wash hand basins where they will not obstruct the use of the space.
  • Ensure hand dryers are installed at convenient heights and not at a height where their use results in water running from the hands back towards the user.
  • Ensure an adequate number of hand dryers are provided.
  • Specify quiet hand dryers.
  • Ensure hand dryers are a contrasting colour to the background.


Mirrors should be positioned where they can be comfortably used by occupants but will not cause confusion by seeming to distort the size or configuration of the room.

Some people may perceive a full height mirror as a wall opening.

Where soap dispensers are positioned over basins, mirrors could be tilted down to ensure wheelchair users and people of smaller stature are able to use them.

Design consideration

  • Position mirrors in all toilets and changing areas at a height useable by everyone.
  • Avoid the installation of full-height mirrors.
  • Consider tilting mirrors over a wash basin if a soap dispenser is installed there.


Shelves should be provided in positions where they are easy to reach (for instance, from a shower seat or by someone in a wheelchair).

Where the top of a toilet cistern is not flat, shelves are also required for people changing colostomy bags.

Shelves in accessible sanitary facilities should not be located where they will impact on the use of the space by wheelchair users.

Shelves should contrast with the background and not be placed where they will be a hazard for a person who is blind or has low vision. For example, do not place a shelf over basins where it is expected a person will bend forwards.

Design consideration

  • Provide a shelf near the wash hand basin for personal effects.
  • In accessible toilets provide a shelf for a colostomy bag if the cistern top is not flat and usable.
  • In shower areas provide a ‘wet’ shelf for toiletries and personal items positioned within easy reach of a standing user and someone sitting on the fold-down shower seat.
  • Consider the provision of wall hooks or larger shelves to keep items such as small bags or motorcycle helmets off toilet floors.
  • Ensure the installation of shelves does not impact on the use of the space.
  • Ensure shelves are a contrasting colour to the background.
  • Ensure shelves are not located where they can be a hazard to building users.

Waste bins

Waste bins and sanitary disposal bins take up space and are best recessed into the wall. Sanitary disposal bins need to be large enough to be able to accommodate adult-sized pads. In accessible facilities especially, it is essential that waste bins do not impact on the use of the space. Movable bins can also be a hazard if they are not in the expected location.

In many countries, the sewage system is unable to cope with toilet paper thrown into the toilet pan. In these places, toilet paper is disposed of in a waste bin by the side of the toilet. Tourists from these locations may not realise that this is not necessary in New Zealand and use an adjacent waste bin. To avoid this happening, waste bins should be positioned accordingly (preferably under paper towel dispensers).

Waste bins should contrast in colour with the background.

Design consideration

  • Provide general waste bins in single-sex and gender neutral toilets, accessible toilets, bathrooms, shower rooms, and changing areas.
  • Decide the position of waste and sanitary disposal bins at the design stage to ensure they do not conflict with the use of the facility.
  • In each female toilet cubicle provide a sanitary disposal bin which is easy to operate and large enough for incontinence pads.
  • Ensure lids to bins are easy to operate.
  • In toilet accommodation, avoid positioning the waste bin near the toilet pan.
  • Ensure waste bins are a contrasting colour to the background.

Coat hooks

Coat hooks are essential for keeping items off the floor but need to be placed at heights suitable for their user. Invariably this means the provision of hooks at different heights.

Coat hooks should contrast with the background and not be placed to project into the room in a way that can present a hazard.

Design consideration

  • Provide coat hooks in all toilet cubicles and in accessible toilets, bathrooms, shower rooms, and changing rooms.
  • Ensure coat hooks are installed at heights suitable for users.
  • Ensure coat hooks are a contrasting colour to the background and not projecting into the room in a way that creates a hazard.


Lockers are essential for the storage of clothes and goods especially in places such as swimming pools. They need to be suitable for their intended use and positioned where they are reachable and lockable. Lockers for items such as crutches, callipers and artificial limbs need to be sized accordingly.

Lockers should be contrasting in colour and easy to use. Digital screens relying on touch are not fully accessible. Consider providing a range of alternative entry lockers.

Design consideration

  • Install lockers for storage of personal effects in changing and shower facilities.
  • Ensure lockers have acceptable security and are designed to store the variety of items expected in their location.
  • Ensure lockers are easy to access and use especially for wheelchair users.
  • Provide larger lockers to store items such as sticks, walking frames, crutches, or artificial limbs.
  • Ensure locker doors are designed to swing shut after use so they do not present an obstruction or hazard.
  • Ensure any numbering or coding system is easy to follow and includes large tactile letters or digits.
  • Ensure locker locations do not impact on the use of the space.
  • Ensure lockers are a contrasting colour to the background.

Hair dryers

Hair dryers should be specified and installed where they are reachable and usable by all building users.

Hair dryers should contrast in colour with the background and their controls should be easy to identify and use.

Design consideration

  • Position hair dryers where they can be used by people in either a seated or standing position.
  • If a number of hair dryers are provided in a changing area, ensure they are provided at a range of heights.
  • Ensure any switches or controls are easy to operate and within reach of all users.
  • Where hair dryers are coin-operated, ensure the coin slot and any other control is accessible to all users.
  • Ensure a suitably positioned mirror is provided in conjunction with each hair dryer location.
  • Ensure hair dryers and their controls are a contrasting colour to the background.

Vending machines

Vending machines should be equally accessible and usable by everyone. This includes those who are blind or have low vision. Tactile and larger print will enable many who are blind or have low vision to use the machines.

Design consideration

  • Ensure vending machines are easy to identify, understand and use and do not cause any obstruction or safety issue.
  • Where vending machines are provided in single-sex toilets, ensure they are also provided in unisex, gender neutral and accessible toilets.
  • Provide accessible information to ensure the machines are able to be used by people who are blind or have low vision.


People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to falls and accidents. If they are in areas where they are alone and cannot be seen, the provision of an assistance alarm is essential to their safety.

Design consideration

  • Consider assistance alarms in all accessible toilets, bathrooms, shower rooms, and changing rooms designed for independent use.
  • Wherever assistance alarms are installed, establish procedures to ensure that someone will respond and that the person or persons are trained in giving assistance.
  • Ensure activation of the alarm is possible by someone who is using the facility or who has fallen on the floor.
  • Ensure the alarm indicator is noticeably different to fire or other alarms.
  • Ensure confirmation of activation is available inside the room where it has been activated.
  • Provide a visual and audible indicator (where it can be seen and heard by people able to respond).
  • Ensure the alarm indicator will not cause discomfort.
  • Install a reset button within the room reachable from both a wheelchair and the toilet.
  • Provide an additional reset button outside the room for use by the person responding to the call for assistance.

Heaters and pipes

Design consideration

  • Ensure room heaters do not have high surface temperatures and are positioned away from wheelchair manoeuvring space.
  • Avoid running pipework on the surface of a wall where it may be damaged or used as a support by building users.

Building Code requirement

Building Code clause G1 Personal hygiene:

G1.3.1 Sanitary fixtures shall be provided in sufficient number and be appropriate for the people who are intended to use them.

G1.3.4 Personal hygiene facilities provided for people with disabilities shall be accessible

G1.3.3 Facilities for personal hygiene shall be provided in convenient locations.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: