The Water Stopper
At the Texas Society of Architects convention in Fort Worth last year I came across an interesting product marketed by Best Bath Systems called the Water Stopper.
The Water Stopper is a 1-3/8″ tall rubber fin that can be installed at the entry to an accessible shower to prevent water from flowing out of the enclosure. The fin is flexible enough that it is supposed to flatten down to 1/4″ when a wheelchair rolls over it. It seems like a great solution, but does it comply with the ADAAG?
Roll-in showers are not permitted to have curbs and smaller transfer-type showers are permitted to only have 1/2″ high curbs. If you are retrofitting a shower or if you have a lousy tile guy, you will likely have water spilling from the shower enclosure and flowing into your bedroom. This is a common problem.
From the ADAAG (1991) – 4.21.7 Curbs. If provided, curbs in shower stalls 36 in by 36 in (915 mm by 915 mm) shall be no higher than 1/2 in (13 mm). Shower stalls that are 30 in by 60 in (760 mm by 1525 mm) minimum shall not have curbs.
From the revised ADA/ABAAG (2004) – 608.7 Thresholds. Thresholds in roll-in type shower compartments shall be 1/2 inch (13 mm) high maximum in accordance with 303. In transfer type shower compartments, thresholds 1/2 inch (13 mm) high maximum shall be beveled, rounded, or vertical. EXCEPTION: A threshold 2 inches (51 mm) high maximum shall be permitted in transfer type shower compartments in existing facilities where provision of a 1/2 inch (13 mm) high threshold would disturb the structural reinforcement of the floor slab.
My thoughts on the Water Stopper:
- The ADAAG does not prohibit new technologies. We should always be on the lookout for creative solutions.
- The prohibition on curbs was intended for hard curbs. The old ADAAG refers to curbs, the revised ADAAG calls them thresholds and is a bit less restrictive, but neither guideline refers to flexible or removable systems.
- The Water Stopper does not seem to limit the function of a wheelchair. Although I did not perform any scientific studies, I shared the product with several wheelchairs users who had no problems rolling over it.
- The Water Stopper is supposed to be easy to remove (It attaches with a pre-installed glue strip). The fact that it can be removed isn’t a plus for transient lodging, but in assistive living or within a residential facility where the occupant is more permanent the adaptability is a good thing.
- The only reservation I had was that the 1-3/8″ height could be an issue if individuals trying to transfer into a shower get their foot hung up on the fin, but if the revised ADAAG will permit a 2″ hard curb in existing conditions, then this must not be too much of a problem. None of the wheelchair users I spoke with had any concern about it.
Best Baths has a verbal interpretation from the Access-Board that the Water Stopper is in the “spirit of the code” [sic] and I would agree with that assessment.
In my opinion, this flexible curb should be accepted as equivalent facilitation. Let me know what you think.
Nothing in these requirements prevents the use of designs, products, or technologies as alternatives to those prescribed, provided they result in substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability.
Advisory 103 Equivalent Facilitation. The responsibility for demonstrating equivalent facilitation in the event of a challenge rests with the covered entity. With the exception of transit facilities, which are covered by regulations issued by the Department of Transportation, there is no process for certifying that an alternative design provides equivalent facilitation.