Feature Article - May 2008
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All in the Family

Ensuring Locker Rooms & Restrooms Are Fit for Everyone

By Stacy St. Clair

Meeting Needs

Following guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act will get any design headed in the right direction. However, there are many other things to consider. Are the lockers deep enough to hold a diaper bag? Is there enough space in the changing area for both a wheelchair and a caregiver to maneuver?

Recreation managers also should consider creature comforts such as coat hooks, couches, televisions, etc. Basically, if you offer a service or amenity in your adult locker room, it's wise to provide the same services in your family facilities.

"Just like design is important in a regular restroom, it's important in a family-friendly facility as well," Brubaker said. "Some people like a family restroom to take care of medical needs. For example, having things like absorbent pads available is a good idea. People also want shelves—and ones where babies can't be changed."

The most important aspect of any family locker room and restroom is its convenience. If it's not centrally located or not spacious enough, families simply won't use it. For example, if your facility has an aquatic component, the family room must walk out onto the pool deck. Otherwise, parents will use the adult facilities rather than have their brood traipse through the building sopping wet.

"Location is critical," said Craig Bouck, president and CEO of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture. "Make it as convenient as you can, so it doesn't look like a second thought. If you put it in the wrong place, it's going to be under-utilized."

Bouck advocates a cabana design for family locker rooms, meaning there's one large space with several private dressing stalls. He suggests using glass doors and signage so older patrons—ones not intimately familiar with the family-style facility—know to change in the changing room, not in common-space locker area.

It's important to make the common area as large and open as possible. Parents don't want nooks and crannies where their children can disappear from sight. The open area is important from a safety perspective, too, because thieves will find it difficult to break into lockers in plain view.

"You want to be able to see right down the middle of it," Bouck said. "We now make them with glass doors so that older folks don't get confused."