Public restrooms have a reputation for not always being the most inviting spaces, despite the necessary function they serve. They can be poorly designed, unpleasant in odor, and questionable in cleanliness. One of the most common gripes people have with public restrooms that have commercial toilet partitions is that the stall doors don’t reach the floor. The gap between the stall door and restroom floor can be a source of anxiety and detract from the feeling of stall privacy in a lot of people. As unpopular as these gaps may be, they do actually serve a variety of purposes.
The gaps can help with cleanliness.
In restrooms with multiple toilet cubicles, having the open spaces under the stall walls and door makes the floor easier to clean. Brooms and mops can fit and maneuver under the door. Which makes a thorough cleaning of the floor go more quickly since the whole floor can be cleaned at once.
The feeling of lessened privacy the gap can cause is intentional.
Making the stall feel less private helps keep people from feeling too comfortable in there. That little bit of discomfort makes a person more likely to do their business and get out of there. This keeps the bathroom line moving more quickly and helps to discourage people from engaging in unsavory behavior in the stalls.
The gap can also be considered a safety feature.
If someone has an emergency or becomes unconscious while in the stall, the gap makes it easier for someone to notice and for the person to get the help they need. It also provides easier access in case of an emergency or even just a jammed lock or stuck door. The space allows for help to crawl into the stall or for a trapped person to crawl out.
The gap is in ADA guidelines for handicap accessibility.
In order to be compliant with the ADA guidelines, stall doors need to have at least a 9-inch clearance off of the floor. This is to provide better maneuverability for wheelchair users within the stall.
The gap can help to determine whether or not a stall with a closed-door is occupied.
Most standard stall doors don’t have an open or occupied indicator. So, if a stall door is closed, stooping to check for feet is a quick and easy way to determine whether or not a stall is occupied. This also helps to cut down on bathroom wait times.
It helps with air quality in the stall.
The open space allows for better ventilation, which helps to dissipate unpleasant odors. It also keeps the fumes from cleaning products from lingering within the stall after it has been cleaned.
It makes it easier to share supplies.
Whether a person uses the toilet only to discover their stall has no toilet paper or someone discovers that they need an emergency tampon, the gap makes it easier to pass the needed supplies to the person in the stall.