About this project.

Welcome to my blog – part of my ‘World of Accessible Toilets’ project.

How the project started.

The accessible toilet project began in January 2014 as a response to my personal experiences of living life around the toilet – typically the probability of whether I could access one or not, at any given time. It dictated whether I left my home, how and where I worked and pretty much every aspect of life.

I have a progressive impairment, Muscular Dystrophy, which gradually weakens muscles as time goes on. Muscle weakness has also affected my bowel and bladder. I constantly have to adjust to different toilet requirements and ways of getting to, on and off the toilet. I now have to use a hoist as I can no longer stand or push with my arms.

I realised that the thing which disabled people worried about the most was the loss of dignity/hygiene and/or not being able to use the toilet. It is usually the most discussed topic in on-line forums where disabled people and carers gather.

People often have little support from health and social care professionals, charities rarely delve into this ‘taboo’ topic and people are left to manage not knowing about the equipment and solutions that might be available.

This project, including the Blog and associated Face Book page and Twitter account, receive no funding and are managed on a voluntary basis with guest bloggers and individuals sharing their thoughts, news and experiences.

No funding is received for this project but you can support the project by making a donation or becoming a member (with access to member information posts only).

Link to membership and donation page

Aim

One of the biggest restrictions in daily life, for disabled people, focuses around the toilet.

Picture of a member guideThe aim of this project is to provide helpful/useful information through:

  • Encouraging disabled people to share their experiences through being Guest Bloggers or  contributors to our publications.
  • Information provision in forums and across social media.
  • Supporting campaigns and consultations across the UK
  • Providing news and reviews of equipment, Apps and accessible toilet rooms.
  • Publications for members and 1:1 advice.

If it’s to do with accessible toilets – we should have it covered.

Tell me about how to be a guest blogger – I’ve got a story or product to share.

News and information often relates to these key areas of difficulty:

  • Misuse of toilets and toilet spaces
  • Lack of usable toilets
  • Compliance with building regulations (or not).
  • Failures within the Equality Act resulting in disability discrimination
  • Locating or identifying a toilet – signage, distance, colour schemes, layouts etc.
  • Physically getting into a toilet cubicle or bathroom
  • Difficulty getting on or off a toilet seat
  • Difficulty with clothing or medical appliances.
  • Availability of practical support or assistance with hygiene
  • Accessing aids/adaptations/equipment
  • Access to medication or information around bowel, bladder, menstruation management.

Many public places in the UK lack information about what is required for a disabled person to safely, hygienically and comfortably use the toilet.  It is not as simple as meeting ‘guidelines’ for wheelchair accessible bathrooms –  because these standards are still not accessible to tens of thousands of people!

Also, it’s not just people with mobility difficulties who need quick access to toilets – for example people with bowel or bladder disease, autism, mental health problems, dementia (or thousands of  other invisible impairments) may also need adapted facilities.

Social Media

This blog is about sharing information about toilet provision and the issues around accessing toilets/equipment and assistance in the UK. We network across social media.

Accessible_Toilets

Please join us to build our network and community…

Recent news related to accessible toilets and hygiene appear on our Face Book Page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Accessible-Toilets/1475973905956018

On Twitter: @ifori

 

7 Comments

  1. Hello,

    I have multiple sclerosis, cannot walk but I can pull myself up to standing and pull my feet into position in order to turn slightly and lower myself down onto a toilet seat. The standard ‘document M’ design of disabled toilets does not work for me and, I understand, many others. I can just about pull myself up to standing using the closer to the toilet of the two vertical rails, but cannot get back up again because the one nearest to the toilet is too close and the other, on the other side of the mirror/basin is too far away to reach. The basin itself is the wrong height to use for the purpose and there is nothing suitable to grip. As a result my world comprises as far as I can get to and return back home in 3-4 hours.

    Some weeks ago I and a friend made my first foray beyond my usual parameters when we went to the Design Museum. I knew it was installed relatively recently into its current building and we made the rash assumption that, of all places, the Design Museum would know how to design a disabled toilet that works.

    Having gone round the exhibition we had been to see, I wanted to go for a pee. The disabled toilet was certainly big enough for my power wheelchair. Unfortunately, one of the vital grab rails was missing – the one that should have been on the wall adjacent to the toilet. This meant there was no way I could get up off the toilet seat as I need something to push myself up with one hand whilst pulling myself forward and up with the other. The only way to reach the far vertical rail is if someone helps pull me up.

    Without that other rail on the wall, the only thing I could pull myself out of the wheelchair with was the one vertical rail where, with nothing to hold with my other hand, I hung like a flag in the breeze before losing my balance and landing with a thump on the toilet seat, still fully dressed.

    We pulled the red cord for assistance. A nice woman arrived but she had no idea how to help me get up to standing in order to pull my trousers down. She called a colleague who didn’t know any better than she, and so it went on until there were half a dozen members of staff, my friend and I all in the disabled loo, unable to do anything. In the circumstances it was probably just as well I was still fully clothed! We rang 999 because I knew paramedics would be able to help. Yes, they could come – in approximately 4 1/2 hours.

    In the end a security man was brought in. He put his arms around me and bodily lifted me off the toilet and plonked me back in my wheelchair. Much relief all round, except for me – I still wanted to go to the loo. The nearest hospital was the Cromwell, about 10 minutes walk away. By looking suitably humble, the doorman let me and my friend in to use the loo.

    A few days later the inevitable questionnaire arrived from the Design Museum, asking for feedback on the exhibition we saw and, at the end, did I have any other comments? Funnily enough I did, and told the story above.

    The response was not what I expected. I heard back from the Head of Audience (whatever that is, but it’s quite senior) and the man who manages the building, with a schedule of what they were going to do and precisely when. Putting in missing grab rails, getting the building surveyed by an Access Consultant. I pointed out that they are the perfect organisation to lead improvements to the standard design.

    Shortly afterwards the Greater London Authority launched their own toilet project with a questionnaire circulated on social media (I found it posted on Nextdoor) with particular questions about disabled toilets. Apparently it was prompted by the experience of the chair of the Health Committee after she went round London with a friend who has MS, finding the loos were useless to her.

    Whilst a lot of disabled loos are the responsibility of the local borough authority, some are run by the GLA. I put the people at the GLA in touch with those at the design Museum, suggesting they collaborate. The GLA seems very keen on this idea. I also contacted all the disability-focused organisations I could find, again suggesting they work together, the rationale being the project might gain some momentum and there is no point in reinventing wheels.

    One organisation I didn’t get anywhere with is the British Standards Institute, keepers of the infamous Document M. I asked who is responsible for it and who might be receptive to making changes, but they didn’t know. They also didn’t know where it came from.

    The other organisation that appears not to want to get involved in any collaboration is the British Toilet Association. Their focus appears to be giving evidence to committees and trying to find sponsorship for conducting their own survey of what people want from public toilets. The answer seems pretty obvious!

    Whether all this will get anywhere I don’t know, but my word have I tried.

    Yours,

    Amy Silverston
    37 Laurier Rd,
    London NW5 1SH
    Amy.Silverston@BTInternet.com

    1. Thank you for your shared experience.

      The design of toilets is specified in doc M (as you know). That is to say that if a toilet is made to these guidelines as a minimum, there is significantly less chance that they will be considered as not suitable should a case be brought to a court regarding disability discrimination.

      British standards supplement this as to ‘best practice’ but is not a legal requirement. They go to public consultation occasionally such as the recent one for changing places toilets.

      Doc M comes about (being reviewed every few years or so) by reason of government public consultations and panels of experts which include disabled people and designers. These panels are somewhat secretive so a level of transparency about how they come to design conclusions would benefit them.

      The aim is that a standard of toilet is set to support the majority of people – in the knowledge that not every design (whatever is chosen) will meet the needs of all disabled people. Often what works for one will actually prevent another from having a usable toilet. All things considered, the UK leads with the best standards. There may be room for improvement but any changes must not then disadvantage other disabled people. Eg changing the flooring to a no slip surface may then prevent people who drag their feet or use rollers or a chair. It’s pretty tricky getting a balance for designs.

      Some of us, myself included, will find that the standard does not meet our needs. The standard has to cover so many ranges of mobility/sensory loss and other needs (eg people with dementia, autism etc).

      A business can go beyond the standard by not only providing a standard accessible toilet but may also provide (or need to provide changing places toilets ) and ambulatory toilets or other mixed options of their own design.

      The best way to influence design is to take part in the consultation process or campaign for an actual consultation on changing a specific element eg such as the campaign to get changing places included which was successful.

      So essentially, once the legal designs have been implemented then any business may consult to put in additional toilet facilities with different layouts to assist more people. This however, because it is not a legal requirement, is rare mainly due to cost and space. You would probably need several accessible toilets to cater for so many different requirements which is not possible or affordable in reality.

      Often doc M doesn’t change because they need evidence – which needs a professionally done study and evaluation / recommendations, cost and feasibility studies etc (usually at post graduate level – which needs funding). This can take several years and toilets rarely attract funding!!

      I hope this explains a little bit about the process of a design change.

      Good luck with your discussions – Louise.

  2. Hi, my local Parish Council is selling our village toilets off for profit and building one toilet (replacing 7) which is not suitable for the disabled. Is there anything we can do?
    Thanks

    1. I suggest writing to them asking for a reply within ‘x’ days saying you are concerned about the new single facility. Ask them how they plan on meeting the needs of disabled and older local people who require accessible toilets to avoid social isolation and exclusion.

      You may want to point out that the British Standards for toilet and hygiene facilities requires that if a building has only one toilet it must be fully accessible. Whilst they don’t have to legally meet the standards, they do have to provide equality of toilet provision under the Equality Act. If they deliberately provide for none disabled people and exclude those who need wheelchair accessible toilets then this is active discrimination that can be legally challenged. They have a duty to anticipate that disabled people will need the toilet perhaps more than anyone.
      Fell free to send them any of our free ebooks!
      – regards Louise

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