Feature Article - May 2012
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Changing Places

The Ever-Changing Locker Room Goes Modern

By Rick Dandes


Recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements have put more awareness on minimum accessibility standards. For now, however, there is a basic rule that where locker rooms are provided, a certain number of these must be accessible, said MacDonald.

Blaisdell added that accessibility is a key issue that the owner of a facility and the design team must take into account. Design considerations include proper clearances and turning areas around showers and more.

"The designer should think about how someone in a wheelchair, walker or otherwise partially disabled would move around the facility, change, use the facilities, shower and get back into street clothes," Blaisdell said. "This means having a large accessible bench with a back that has proper clearance to the lockers."

This is not an area to scrimp on, particularly in a fitness center, insisted Larson. "We like to go beyond the legislated requirements to provide a seamless and convenient experience for people of all physical and mental abilities. These include accessible showers, lavatories and water closets, full-length mirrors, wider benches for wheelchair transfers and generous floor area for maneuvering."

Villwock said his company is always aware of accessibility issues and mandates. The accessibility issues for locker rooms are more guidelines than hard-and-fast mandates, he said. "From an accessibility standpoint," he said, "we have to consider the force it takes to open a locker, and the ease of reaching into a locker. There are push-button kinds of lockers where you don't have to worry about twisting and turning, and the force needed to open a lock. Also, a person in a wheelchair might not be able to reach down to the bottom of a locker, so we have lockers made that make it easier to store things inside. We have options like top-tier and middle-tier lockers that are handicap-accessible."

Family Friendly

The demand for family-style locker rooms continues to grow, expanding to include parents with children, caretakers with a partner who needs assistance or, increasingly, people who might be undergoing rehabilitation from various health conditions who need temporary assistance. The growth of this type of locker room is so noticeable that many designers no longer call them family locker rooms because many other user groups have found them to be the best solution for their changing and showering needs.

Assisted changing rooms is a much better term, MacDonald said, "because we often find that caregivers of all types are using these, as well as individuals that may have concerns over the lack of privacy in the group locker rooms."

At the college level, Blaisdell added, "We see these used as transgender restrooms."

Larson emphasized that these family-type facilities, many times called special needs changing rooms, provide a private place for wardrobe changes. Many people are uncomfortable changing in a public setting and these family-style rooms provide an option that is much more inviting and less intimidating. The old gang-type showers have become a thing of the past.