Signage is part of a toilet being ‘accessible’. Regular readers will know that generally I don’t seem to be having the best of experiences at zoo’s lately! I came across a problem which, like my recent trip to Bluewater shopping mall, highlighted the barrier that is signage.
Here is a good example of how poor signage can turn a good day into a frustrating one.
I’ll start with Colchester Zoo in Essex.
I saw on their map they had an Adult Changing facility (with a wheelchair logo). This is what their website says:
* All 13 sets of toilets around the zoo and at our cafes have disabled toilet facilities.
* An adult changing area for those with additional needs is provided at the toilet facilities near the meerkat enclosure. Please ask for a key at the Guest Services office or the nearby Meerkat Hangout cafe.
Whoopee – easy toilet access. The map didn’t indicate a key was needed so initially we found the toilet block and discovered it to be locked. To cut a long story short, we asked for the key, the key had been lost and another was brought over. 20 minutes later…
We opened the door expecting to see an adult changing table a toilet and a hoist. What we found was entirely different – a bed, a small sink and just enough space to go into forward and out backwards in a wheelchair.
The definition of an adult suggests a person aged 18 or older – someone who, if they need a pad changing, is likely to need carers and a hoist to get onto the bed (and space etc).
This space is a step up from laying a child on the floor (where they are too heavy/long for a baby changing unit) but is really not suitable for changing adults. When staff said the room hadn’t been used that day – I can see why.
So we were left with the regular accessible toilet – which wasn’t accessible because the toilet was in the centre of the wall and with my chair at the side – no space to transfer or sit on the loo. Fail.
Eventually we wandered around and found a toilet that was usable (I say usable, if you class a very steep ramp to the toilet area that I wasn’t happy going up even in a powered chair as ‘accessible’). Inside the toilet was better – and thankfully we made it.
Signage fail number two comes courtesy of Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent. I knew they had a toilet with a hoist – but I couldn’t remember where. I looked at the maps and they all just had the generic wheelchair toilet symbol on. I was looking for the Changing Places symbol.
Eventually, after doing a lap of the lower floor, I resorted to asking management to tell me where it was – and we found it with a little label outside the toilet saying ‘HDU’ as in High Dependency Unit. I know some people prefer this term as opposed to ‘Changing Places’ (it is a registered CP toilet here) but it confused me.
I thought it was key operated (a sign mentions getting a key) but today the push button door opening switch was half working.
It wouldn’t let you in but once in, the internal button did close and auto lock the door. To gain entry you could force slide the door open (no handle of course!).
The problem was, inside there was no curtain, so I sat on the toilet, opposite the door, whilst my assistant went outside to give me some privacy – only we didn’t realise the door was so slow ….. the 40 seconds it took for the door to open and close felt like an hr. Not the best experience!