Abilities needed to use an accessible toilet
People need a variety of abilities to use an accessible toilet – even if the toilet meets all building regulation requirements.
Sometimes you really do have to be an acrobat.
Many of these abilities are physical in nature – yet also involve our senses e.g. to grasp a handle you have to be able to identify it first by sight or touch.
Using the toilet requires actions such as pulling, pushing, bending, grasping, reaching, twisting, flexing arms and legs, using fine motor control, core balance skills, coordination – and energy. It can involve moving and bending in confined spaces or dim light.
These are just some of the things you need to be able to do for this ‘simple’ task. It highlights how you need to be fairly ‘able’ to go to the toilet.
- see where the toilet room is, locate the door and possibly turn a key.
- raise an arm (or equivalent) to grasp / hook the handle and pull the door open (sometimes against a strong spring), manoeuvre through the door, close it and turn the lock.
- locate where the toilet and sink are and possibly activate a light switch.
- move waste bins and other objects out of the way – perhaps outside of the door.
- turn and position yourself (especially if you use a wheelchair, frame, walker, crutch, sticks etc).
- bend, grasp, lean and balance to successfully remove trousers, undo zips, remove/manipulate underwear, lift /hold skirts.
- lift yourself out of your wheelchair and onto the toilet (or lower yourself down in a controlled and stable fashion if standing) .
- hold onto a grab rail (balance, grasp, extending arms/raising limbs) [and be able to pull down the grab rail if in the upright position].
- balance / hold bars (often for extended periods of time) to urinate/defecate
- reach and grasp toilet role, tear off a piece (difficult with one hand or no grip) and twist/reach to wipe thoroughly.
- maintain menstrual hygiene or change a sanitary towel or a soiled pad
- stand up or transfer back into your wheelchair or reach for cane/frame etc.
- pull up underwear / trousers / put clothes back on / do up zips etc.
- reach and push on a flush handle, press a paddle flush or activate a button.
- turn on a tap, reach the sink if you haven’t already washed your hands/equipment.
- manipulate soap/liquid and water in your hands to cleanse hands properly
- hold hands in the air under a dryer or rub with hand towels.
- see the door, open the lock and exit the toilet.
Large numbers of people find some or all of these elements challenging or impossible. Most of the difficulties can be overcome or removed by improving space, equipment and facilities.
That is why the current standards in accessible toilet design are failing to meet the needs of people who can not do these actions. Things need to change and the time is NOW!!