Accessible Toilets When You Go Abroad

Accessible western style toilet with a grab bar and space next to the toilet where foldable mounted shower chair pulls down with handheld shower hose
One of the daily challenges of traveling abroad for people with mobility disabilities is finding accessible toilets and bathrooms.

Do you have fears or concerns about not being able to use the bathroom when on an international exchange program? Fortunately, people with disabilities have lived, volunteered and studied in some of the most remote areas on Earth and have shared their strategies for handling challenging bathroom situations.

Don’t Be Shy: Questions to Ask Before You Go

In other countries, what is considered accessible may be different from what you are used to. Don’t make assumptions about accessibility unless information is clearly stated. Ask your host or program provider to answer specific questions about the accessibility of the toilets and showers that you will be expected to use, such as:

  • Are toilets western-style or squat-style?
  • How wide is the bathroom door?
  • Are grab bars available?
  • Are roll-in showers or shower chairs available?
  • Do showers have hand-held shower heads with controls that are within reach?
  • Are the sinks lowered? How high are they?
  • How high are the toilets? Accessible toilets are typically 17 to 19 inches or 43 to 48 centimeters tall.
  • Are toilet risers available if the toilet isn’t tall enough?
  • Is the pathway to the toilet accessible? For example, does a narrow hallway or stairs block access?

If you still have doubts, ask for photos of the bathroom and shower space for extra peace of mind.

Next Steps

  • Consider what portable shower chairs, suction grab bars, easy door openers, and transfer boards you can bring along.
  • Connect with disability organizations in the host country to find out if there's a map of accessible public toilets. In the UK, you'll need to purchase an access key to get into these locked facilities (contact Radar UK).
  • Learn bathroom-related and disability-related phrases in your host country’s language before you go.

See Related Links for equipment examples. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE.