Let's CLEAR things up!
The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it very plain in Chapter 6: PLUMBING ELEMENTS AND FACILITIES that there is set clearance around a water closet. The centerline of the water closet and the positioning of side and rear wall grab bars allow for transfer on and off the water closet. This transfer area must be kept clear 60 inches minimum measured perpendicular to the side wall and 56 inches minimum measured perpendicular from the rear wall. See diagram for water closet clearance.
There are certain components that are allowed to overlap the water closet. These include the following: associated grab bard, dispensers, sanitary napkin disposal units, coat hooks, shelves, accessible routes, clear floor space, and the turning space. Notice the sink is NOT included in this list.
Besides the sink, other items are also not allowed to overlap the water closet clear floor space. These are some of the items that are not included:
Cleaning equipment, such as the vacuum cleaner shown here, is not allowed in the clearance space.
Reading material and extra rest room supplies are not allowed in the clearance space.
Exercise equipment is not allowed in the clearance.
Furniture and decorative plants are not allowed in the clearance.
Yes, these are all real life examples from public spaces that run the gammut from restaurants to commercial office spaces. Many people may see this as "wasted space" and feel the need to use it for storage or decoration. The clearance at the water closet has a specific purpose - transfer. Keep it clear for those who need to utilize the space!