By Rory Macnamara.

Persons with disabilities is defined as persons who have a long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with various barriers, might hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Whilst defined similarly in SANS 10400:S – Facilities for persons with disabilities, the definition is recognised worldwide. Application of this standard and, regarding water and waste, other relevant standards enable person with disabilities to enjoy an equal life as those without.

Adaptation of a toilet facility, such as we will discuss in this feature, does not in any way imply negativity or inferiority but recognises that we are dealing with human beings equally. No matter one’s situation we all have the same components in our bathrooms, i.e., toilet, basic, mixers, rails, showers, and baths. It is the installation that is different not the individual.

Railman Logo

Feature supporter

Whilst SANS 10400 is the National Building Regulation for South Africa, which covers all aspects of a building, in this instance it includes SANS 10400:P – Drainage and SANS 10252 parts 1 & 2, Water Supply installations for Buildings and Drainage installation for Buildings respectively. These are compulsory standards.

The first consideration is competency. Competency, as we have recently published, is not a choice of one of the four elements that defines competency but all of them, namely, education, training, experience, and contextual knowledge. It applies to all disciplines involved that are qualified i.e., architects, engineers, and plumbers as required by either statutory or duties assigned to them in the applicable national standard.

Qualified Plumber

Only a qualified plumber may work on the water and waste line. This means qualified by virtue of a fully recognised apprenticeship or learnership and is the holder of the Red Seal or QCTO certificate. Such plumbers can register with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), a voluntary organisation mandated to register and inspect and audit the work of registered plumbers. Such a body offers Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points obtained by ongoing learning such as courses offered, exhibitions, conferences, webinars, workshops, etc., that qualify to receive a certain number of points.

The competency referred to above is a critical part of this standard. We mentioned adaptability earlier and this is where the definitions in the standard are so important.

The design of fixtures and fittings are described simply that a disabled person can use them safely, comfortably, and conveniently. Consideration is also given to the fixture and fitting operation and the force needed to use them.

The annexures are critical. Whilst they are described as annexures, they are also informative rather than prescriptive as the standard itself is. They assist particularly when the installation is of a smaller nature and not requiring a rational design.

Handtowels position next to basin.

Handtowels position next to basin.

  • Annex A. describes the overall standard including the occupancy requirements and the classification of the building.
  • Annex B. describes access needs of persons with disabilities in the context of the South African legislative framework.
  • Annex C. describes the access needs of persons with different disabilities in detail.
  • Annex D. describes notes on the design and layout of toilet facilities.

The standard itself is broad in that it covers all applications, but we will dwell on 4.12 Toilet Facilities.

The first section describes the various occupancies as detailed in Annex A with reference to travelling distance to such toilets e.g., same floor, 45 metres, or 25 metres where ramps are installed.

4.12.2 In a wheelchair accessible toilet.

Image by jcomp on Freepik

Image by jcomp on Freepik

There are building and measurement aspects which do not fall in the plumber’s domain but in order for the plumber to fulfil his or her task, it is best that the plumber ensures the dimensions provided are correct. Failure to consider this may result in the fittings and fixtures not being installed correctly.

Section c – refers to the distance that must be provided from the centre of the toilet to the nearest wall where a grab rail must be installed. This distance is not less than 450mm and not more than 500mm and includes the rear wall.

Annexure D illustrates the three applications, namely close-coupled toilet system, wall-hung system and a wall-hung toilet with concealed cistern.

Section e – the distance from the top of the toilet seat from floor level must be less than 480mm and not more than 500mm.

Reference is also made in section f that unless the back rest is a specially designed, the standard lid and seat must remain in an upright position.

Clearly all sanitary fittings and fixtures must be easy to use for one in a wheelchair and not interfere with the movement of the wheelchair from one point to another. This applies particularly to the flushing control.

The wash basin must be mounted from the height of the floor to the top edge of the basin, not more than 820mm and with a vertical clearance of 650mm from under basin to floor. The basin can be mounted with or without a pedestal.

Grab rail assemblies must be of a strong material, non-slip and be able to carry the loads they carry. Also, the rails must be provided at the side and back of the toilet.

Whilst we have focused mainly of the toilet element of disabilities, showers and baths must have easy access for a wheelchair and the floor must be of a non-slip material. Grab rails in showers and baths must fulfil the requirements as stated above.

SANS 10400:P Drainage has the normal requirements for water and waste and is referred to in 10400:S. Part P is covered under SANS 10252-2 and is compulsory.