How to Design a Dental Office that is Handicap Accessible
Posted by HJT Design
When it comes to redesigning your dental office space, the list of must-haves, wanted changes, and added conveniences is long. A total office redesign is your chance to transform your functional office space into the dental office you’ve always dreamed of. It’s also a great time to make sure your office is up to code and accessible for all your patients.
“Each facility or part of a facility constructed by, on behalf of, or for the use of a public entity shall be designed and constructed in such a manner that the facility or part of the facility is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if the construction has commenced after January 26, 1992.”
-The Americans with Disabilities Act 1990
For three decades, dentists like you have been faced with the important task of adapting office spaces, equipment, and exteriors to allow for any patient to have equal access to dental care. A renovation is the perfect time to make all the necessary changes to get your office in compliance with any federal ADA laws. Not every change is a required law, but many of them can be significant for those individuals with disabilities who also need quality dental care.
Some of the most common accessibility concerns at dentist office include:
The Front Entrance
Are your sidewalks and front entrance accessible for individuals in wheelchairs? You may need to incorporate ramps outside so that everyone can easily enter your office. Can your front door open automatically for visitors who have difficulty opening doors manually, or does it feature a push-bar for exiting? Is your parking lot in disrepair and a hazard for individuals who have trouble with mobility? Do you have adequate, and appropriately marked, handicap parking available for your patients?
The Waiting Room
Consider the fact that disabilities look different for each patient. Your waiting room should have adequate space between furniture to allow for wheelchairs to pass and furniture should be carefully chosen to accommodate various mobility concerns. There are many patients with disabilities who also have additional sensory needs; try to avoid overtly bright lights, loud speaker systems for overhead music, or fragrances that that might be a trigger for some patients. Consider incorporating technology, like tablets, into your check-in process. This can make the process simpler for patients who are hearing impaired.
Handicap Accessible Restrooms
Patient restrooms are among the most common concerns for ADA compliance that dentists see. According to federal law, restrooms must be at least 7’1″ x 6″ in size and have a door that opens out into a space with 5-feet of clearance. Restrooms must also feature appropriate grab bars inside and a handicap accessible sign outside the door.
Patient Care Needs
Patient treatment rooms can often become crowded with equipment, cabinetry, monitors, furniture, and people. Make sure that your walkways are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Try incorporating height-adjustable treatment chairs to allow for easy access for those with physical disabilities. And, because some patients may have sensory needs, or intellectual disabilities, it’s important to offer sedation dentistry as an option in order to provide the best possible dental care. Your office may offer IV sedation, conscious/oral sedation, or even laughing gas/nitrous oxide options for your patients.
The most important thing to remember when you’re planning a dental office renovation is that any changes should keep your patients’ best interest and needs in mind. Your job is to help your patients feel calm and confident when they sit down in your chair, so you can effectively provide them with the quality dental care they need and deserve.
At HJT Dental Design Consultants, we understand the complexities of a complete dental office redesign. With decades of industry experience in dentistry, design, and construction, we understand what the laws are regarding the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act and guarantee that the changes made throughout each project comply with any and all federal laws and guidelines. Contact us today with any questions you may have regarding the ADA 1990 and your upcoming dental office renovation project.