FAQ: The RADAR accessible toilet key

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What is a RADAR Key? [updated March 2018]

The RADAR key Company have manufactured the vast majority of keys many know as RADAR keys over the past 25 years. They are needed to open a large number (10,000 plus) of accessible toilets in the UK which are part of the National Key Scheme (NKS).

History of the key

RADAR is an organisation that no longer exists – it became part of a new company Disability Rights UK (DRUK). They started the National Key Scheme in the UK.

The RADAR Key Company no longer supply keys to DRUK but continue to make the keys for the National Key Scheme and improve on them.

What toilets do they open?

The keys open toilets fitted with the RADAR National Key Scheme (NKS) locks. Toilets fitted with these are for the use of disabled people and are found all over the country (e.g. pubs, restaurants, leisure venues, tourist places, shopping centres, stations, airports etc).

What types are there?

There are two types – one with a small head and one with a very large head for people with grip or dexterity difficulties. Both used to be silver with the word RADAR Key embossed on them fit into an NKS door lock or NKS padlock . The door locks often look like this:RADAR_lock

Keys now look like this:

A new solid brass key.

They are long handled to bypass vandal protection blocks built into doors.

Who can have one?

Any individual with an impairment / medical condition who needs access to these larger toilets or hygiene facilities or needs facilities to assist mobility or navigation (such as hand rails, lower basin, contrasting colours, different toilet height or seat arrangement, changing table, hoist for example).

One downside is that you do not need proof of need to purchase one so parents and non disabled people can abuse the scheme.

Where do I buy a genuine key from?

You can buy brass (improved) genuine (tested and guaranteed to work) keys from the makers of the original key :

Radarkey.org

price £2.50

Other sellers of ‘genuine’ keys include this one from Disability Rights UK (4.50). [personally I prefer the improved brass one as opposed to a love heart blue key that is rather stigmatising. Some may prefer it if they want it to stand out and know they have it in their bag].

I have seen them for sale elsewhere – do they work?

Fake RADAR Key Fake RADAR Key

There are hundreds of places claiming to sell ‘genuine’ keys including many prominent charities and mobility shops. Most have a red handle and are mass produced in China. I strongly advise against these keys.

One of the reasons for making a new brass key is to avoid people being ripped of by fakes that may be so rough cut and out of shape that they don’t easily open toilets, if at all. Keys may not be tested by a master locksmith or damage locks.

Tom Gordan from their sales team told me:

“Disabled people need genuine Radar keys because they are dependent on them to open what is often the sole toilet which they can use. 
Genuine keys genuinely work all the locks because they have extra machining processes and are more reliably cut and also more accurately cut.
Each one is tested on a radar toilet lock (not the padlocks which are a more basic mechanism) by a master locksmith to guarantee that a disabled person does not suffer.
Identification of genuine keys is easy – if it says “radar” and ‘NKS’ on it, it is a genuine radar key. If it doesn’t then it is an inferior copy.
Including postage, the majority of the dodgy keys are sold for more than genuine ones direct from us at the RADAR Key Company, so the confusion leads to those copies creating both awkward situations and extra cost.”

How do I find a toilet?

A free App is available for Changing Places toilets and coming soon will be one for other accessible toilets. This is available for Android and Apple phones and on the web.

A booklet for regional locations is available on the DRUK website costing £3.50. However, it will cost you £70 to purchase all regions!! I’d download a free App to find their locations made by the RADAR Key Company!

The majority of toilets use the scheme so it’s probably best to just follow signs to toilets/accessible toilets as anyone would do.

Why are accessible toilets often locked with these in the UK?

Many places choose to install NKS locks on their toilets to keep them clean and reduce the chance of them being abused by people who don’t need to use them, vandalised or used for drugs, sexual activity or a wide range of other things!

Support this project to continue to provide information through membership or donating some sparkle (that’s like coffee but more creative!)

New report: Toilet access within the NHS

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NHS_toilets_report.jpg

Disabled people of all ages, and those who support them, are putting their health at risk because of lack of usable toilets within NHS hospitals and clinics.

Inaccessible toilets at UK hospitals and clinics are also having an impact on the health and recovery of people who may not identify themselves as a disabled person. People with dementia, bowel/bladder disorders, those receiving treatments for cancer or heart/lung disease, rehabilitation therapies or mental health illness for example.

Our 43 page report with a summary of key findings (below), brings together the experiences of patients and families.  

Contributors all have a long term health condition or illness which makes it difficult or impossible to use the toilets currently provided. 

Download the report from the link below.

NHS Accessible Toilet Report 2016

We a very grateful to everyone who participated, providing much needed insight of the urgent need for equality of toilet provision, within the NHS, to support physical and mental wellbeing.

 

Key findings 2015-2016

Stigma

  • Due to stigma, embarrassment and sometimes cultural or gender reasons, patients and visitors rarely complain about difficulties accessing/using the toilet or sharing their experiences.

Rights and Equality

  • Provision of toilets are the most overlooked Human Right contained in the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK Human Rights Act.
  • Access to sanitation is a Human Right being ignored within the NHS.
  • Equality Act duties are not being met because a worse standard of toilet provision is provided for disabled people with no reasonable adjustment.
  • Patients who do not meet the Equality Act definition of ‘disabled’ are also affected by lack of facilities due to short term illness, injury etc.
  • NHS buildings are failing to meet building regulations or strive for British Standards. 
  • Standard wheelchair (Approved Document M ) accessible toilets are not meeting the health and sanitation needs of a wide range of people, particularly those with:
    • Obesity
    • Muscle weakness / neurological impairments
    • Spinal injury
    • Stroke related difficulties 
    • Limb loss
    • Shortened limbs
    • Arthritis  / joint immobility
    • Dementia
    • Diabetes
    • Urinary Incontinence including urgency needs
    • Bowel Incontinence  
    • Learning Difficulties
    • Brain injury and balance disorders.

Safety concerns 

  • Some toilets have been found to be unsafe e.g. by not using non-slip flooring, no emergency cords / unreachable cords or not having the right type and placement of support rails. 
  • Hospitals are failing to ensure dignity, safety and well being of patients, staff and carers by offering unsuitable alternatives to standard toilets.
  • There are 155 acute NHS trusts plus 56 mental health trusts as of October 2015.  Many having multiple buildings across several locations.   Out of all these buildings, only 42 provide a basic Changing Places toilet with hoist, extra space and bench access.
  • NHS staff, for the safety of themselves and patients, can not assist by lifting people from wheelchair to toilet or from a seated to standing position. Where Changing Places are not provided or other suitable equipment such as adjustable height toilets, patients must take a family member to do manual lifting/assisting. This has caused long term back pain for many carers and is painful and dangerous for those being lifted.

Poor signposting

  • NHS staff are not familiar with the needs of patients regarding sanitation which results in poor signposting to toilets / inability to locate a toilet and unsuitable ‘alternatives’ being offered.
  • Not all toilets are shown on hospital maps/signs – and the facilities in each are variable, resulting in difficulty locating a suitable toilet.
  • Very few NHS websites detail information about where toilets are located and the facilities in each – making planning for an appointment difficult.
  • Toilet signs are often difficult to understant, see or follow.

General Health and Wellbeing 

  • Women are worst affected due to the need to be seated on the toilet, menstrual hygiene needs, increased risk of urinary infections and being more likely to have bladder problems such as urgency.
  • Patients say they would rather miss appointments because of fear of not having toilet access.
  • Families are prevented from visiting their spouses/children or friends in hospital because they can’t access a suitable toilet.
  • Patients are choosing to stay at home rather than go to A&E where long waits and no usable toilets are normal.
  • Patients are having surgery to remove the need to sit on a toilet (ostomy or suprapubic catheters)  because of access reasons not because of a medical need.
  • A healthy adult empties their bladder every 2-3 hours, yet many disabled patients are avoiding food and liquids for several hours because they know they can not use toilets at hospitals and clinics.
  • Avoidance / withholding urination and defecation has caused kidney, bowel and bladder damage.
  • Patients are taking extra medication to prevent urination or defecation when outside their homes for several hours impacting work, leisure and attending health appointments/treatments.

Difficulties specific to wheelchair and Scooter users

  • Wheelchair and Scooter users can not get close enough to the toilet for safe transfer. (People with a wide gait, obesity, users of frames/walkers or crutches are also affected by this space restriction).
    • 82% of powered wheelchairs will not fit into the transfer space at the side of a toilet that meets current building regulations.
  • Out of 613 models of scooter and powered wheelchairs – only 140 can turn around in the turning circle recommended in the current building regulations.
  • Severely disabled patients are spending several hours in soiled pads whilst they attend hospital appointments because of no hoist or changing bench facilities.

 

The NHS, by its very nature, will serve a higher percentage of people who need very specific facilities to use the toilet. Therefore, adapted toilets need to be of a higher quality to maximise independent toilet use and maintain a high standard of dignity, safety and hygiene compared to other ‘away from home’ facilities.

Due the nature of a persons’s impairment, illness, injury or medical condition, they may:

  • need the toilet more urgently
  • spend longer on the toilet (and getting on and off the toilet). 30 – 40 minutes is an average time.
  • go more frequently
  • require furniture/equipment to aid removal of clothes e.g. bench/chair
  • need toilet provision beyond what is required within building regulations e.g. extra space, access to bidet facilities/washrooms, access to a hoist and changing bench, access to a height adjustable toilet or other equipment.

To substitute a dedicated room (that non-disabled people are provided with) which has a flushing toilet, sink, waste bins, toilet paper, privacy (locked door/single person use) and space for any of the following (which are common practice alternatives) is not appropriate and probably unlawful.

  • offering no support or equipment – no usable toilet.
  • offer of a commode, spare bed / cubicle (often with a wait) alternative for people who could use a toilet room if one was provided.
  • suggesting patients pre-arrange hoist and nursing support (where space exists to safely use these as a hoist can not be used in a standard wheelchair accessible toilet space). Few people know exactly when they will need the toilet to plan days in advance.

Many alternatives cause pain, embarrassment, and mental distress. Solutions exist because people are able to use the toilet in their own homes – so why not in hospitals and clinics?

It’s finally arrived – the Aquarius Porta Bidet

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I’ve been waiting a few years now for this product – and had given up all hope – then today I noticed it had arrived and was ready to purchase ….. so here it is – the Aquarius Porta-Bidet.

Aquarius

Retailing for the VAT exempt price of £195 (free carry case if you order now worth £25) this might be just what you are looking for – (Pre-order price secured with a £50 deposit until March and free entry into a draw to win one for the deposit price).

I’m excited because the chances of finding a toilet that a) I can get on to and b) has a bidet feature, on holiday, is almost nil.  However, It’s the thing I love about coming back from holiday – oh how I miss my bidet!

So what has this to offer. Well, it’s battery operated which claims a powerful pushing wash nozzle and it gets the water from a reservoir container you place on the floor (so no plumbing or tampering needed).

Let’s look more carefully.

The_All_New_Aquarius_Porta_Bidet_-_Aquarius_Hygiene

This is a screen shot from their video on: http://www.aquariushygiene.com/2014/11/14/the-all-new-aquarius-porta-bidet/

I have a portable spray unit like this that fixes just under the lid – which I bought to make my own portable bidet. My unit came from South Korea and cost about £25 …. but pumping water through it was going to be the difficult part … so let’s see how Aquarius Hygiene do it. Interestingly (and somewhat annoying for me) they can bulk by I assume and offer this part as a replacement ‘spray arm’ for only £9.95.

The_All_New_Aquarius_Porta_Bidet_-_Aquarius_Hygiene

Again, I have taken a screen shot – you fill the unit with water and it has a built in pump and an on/off switch on a tethered handset (which has a hook if you want to hand it nearby). The nozzle retracts after use (and whilst I couldn’t find details on the nozzle spray unit they used – I assume it has a hygiene ‘rinse through’ to keep the nozzle clean?

The unit is a pleasing aqua green and white colour – no information on how big but here are further details:

  • It uses rechargeable batteries
  • 1.5 Litre capacity
  • Minimum of 50 wash cycles per charge
  • 4 wash cycles per reservoir
  • Under 2kg in weight.

The nozzle is not adjustable – so you get the spray wherever it lands (I know this will be problematic for me because of the way my pelvis ‘sits’ – so if you can’t sit right back on the loo or have pelvic deformity where you don’t sit ‘evenly’ you may just get a wet thigh instead. For me, some water is better than no water!

I’m pretty sure to be getting one – so I’ll give it a full review in the summer when I’m on holiday.

Until then…

What’s it like to have assistance to use the toilet?

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Guest Blogger Carl Tilson talks about toilet access and assistance.

carl tilsonCarl can be found on the web on his  Facebook page

This article is available for use by DMD Pathfinders  [http://www.dmdpathfinders.org.uk] – an organisation which promotes choice and control and quality of life for teenagers and adults with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) in the UK.

Carl tells us…

As if being in a wheelchair is not dignified enough not being able to find a suitable accessible toilet or shall we say bathroom when you feel desperate to go is most unpleasant and embarrassing not to say the least. A lot of places are not wheelchair accessible however the places that are and have been made accessible by having a ramp to enter the building don’t tend to consider making toilets accessible.  Do they think that being in a wheelchair means we don’t need to use the toilet? Funny how people consider one thing then completely forget the other very important thing connected to the first thing.

A convenient solution

I have found a solution due to the many times I’ve been somewhere with my carers and the venue has no accessible toilet, that solution is a latex sheave which is like a condom that goes on the penis that is attached to a leg bag under clothing. Sitting on the toilet is impossible and the places where it is accessible, they have accessible toilets but they don’t have hoists or toilet frames so if you are a woman it’s even harder to find an accessible toilet. Having a sheave what I like to call a ‘Convene’ short for convenience makes life trying to find a toilet much more convenient. All the carer has to do, to empty the convene via the leg bag is to flip the valve down and put it into a bottle, however the bottle I use is called a urine bag, its discreet and can also stretch like an elastic balloon. Once finished my carer will then take the bottle to the ordinary toilet to empty out its contents and clean the urine bag out while I wait outside the toilet.

The biggest overall issue is sitting on the toilet most people think everyone who uses a wheelchair has upper body strength which is not the case for many who use wheelchairs people tend to not consider people who have nerve and muscle tissue deficiencies not everyone has lost feeling in their legs or had spinal injuries.

 

New potential duty to provide public toilet in Wales

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New draft laws, for Wales, would make local authorities responsible for public toilet provision to improve public health – but how accessible will they be if this goes ahead?

The Welsh Government Health Minister acknowledged the impact that lack of toilet provision has on people’s lives. However,  if this law is passed, Wales perhaps needs to think about what accessible actually means – an inaccessible toilet is as good as no toilet.

 

AMs heard evidence that often public toilets were difficult to find or not open when needed, and that facilities did not meet their needs and were unclean and unsafe.

Health minister Mark Drakeford told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Wales: “We know that if people are not confident that they will have the facilities they need then it has a distorting effect on their lives.

“They stay at home when they would like to go out. They don’t take tablets that they need to take in order to be able to go out.

“And for older people, people with some mental health conditions, people with young families and children, the fact that they need to be confident that there are proper facilities that they can use if they want to be out in our society is a genuine public health issue.”

“In an age of austerity the answer simply cannot be find more money for it. what we have to do is be more imaginative.”

[Source and full article from BBC News Wales: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-26788560

Dignity down the pan – does it have to be this way?

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It might be a quaint way to describe a lavatory but how I wish bathrooms weren’t the ‘smallest’ room in the house. You can hardly swing a cat in most of them and if you have restricted mobility, then what are you supposed to do….

Time to do some myth-busting and explore the nemesis for wheelchair users that is The Loo.

 

1. Wheelchair users don’t need to pee (or poop).

They probably have catheters or something and pee into a bag or wear incontinence pads? Do people really think that is what happens – and they don’t need to provide accessible toilets? I was once approached by a complete stranger and asked ‘do you use a catheter’. It is bizarre, rude and ignorant – but it happens.

Yes some people do but not everyone – most of us pee and poop the way nature intended and need to get to the loo. Even people with catheters and bags that hold the urine have to be emptied – so we all need a toilet.

2. Disabled people poses super powers to hold themselves for several hours at a time and don’t need a toilet.

Daniel Baker

My friend Daniel Baker at MCM Comic Con – so maybe people do have super powers?

I certainly don’t poses this power and I doubt anyone else does.

If I drink, inevitably I will need the loo at some point. If I drink tea then you’d better have either a toilet or a mop to hand – your choice.

Seriously though, I can’t visit anyone’s house without resorting to only having a sip of water before I go, and nothing until I get home. I can’t risk needing the non-existent loo so my favourite cup of tea has to go on hold.

I use a small adult power chair – but bathrooms in people’s houses are either upstairs or too small to get into (or close enough the loo to transfer).

You know those times when you just know you will be up and down to the loo all day – they are the worst days. I don’t know if I will be able to wait half an hour, an hour or three hours before having to dash home. You sure do feel those pot holes – in fact the number of potholes you bump over directly correlates with the urgency of need.

3. All public places have a disabled toilet, don’t they?

Where do I start with this one! Some don’t have any accessible toilets – going out usually involves using the internet or phoning places to ask for specific details. Often staff do not know what type of accessible toilet they have and provide the wrong information – or leaflets do not specify. Very annoying.

In England the law doesn’t say the public have to have access to a toilet – so councils are not obliged to provide them to anyone!! [Public Health Act 1936].  Generally though, there are good practice standards that should be incorporated into the design of buildings to include flushing toilet facilities that are accessible to disabled people.

The reality, however, is that not even my local or national hospitals meet these standards – never mind the pub down the road or the multi million pound cinema and bowling complex in town!

4. What types of toilets are there and what’s the problem with them?

Well, let us say someone has looked at the building regulations (known as Part M) and chosen to have an accessible toilet on site.  What could possibly go wrong!

Ignore regulations…

10155072_10201673897397303_1686122137207154089_nMy friend Carole found a great example from the New Inn in Durham – the door has no handle. The metal part is for a Radar Key. Some have a step up to them or  display the wheelchair symbol yet are not big enough for many modern day wheelchairs! Others use strong sprung hinges so you can’t open the door … the list goes on and on and the regulations might as well not exist.

Did you know there are 3 types of accessible toilets?

Yes – three! However – this doesn’t make them automatically comply with UK equality legislation or mean they are accessible to everyone.

Type 1 – Accessible to people who can walk.

The first is a slightly larger cubicle with some grab rails or a higher seat for example – these are for people with restricted mobility but who can walk a few steps – ambulant disabled people.

Some venues say they have a disabled toilet – but don’t say it’s only for those who can walk.  Some of these wrongly display the wheelchair symbol. This happened to me at work once and I had to cross my legs for 8 hours! The venue then went and built a new toilet block with two ‘wheelchair’ accessible toilets – but still these were not big enough for even a manual chair. Sometimes you just give up and I refused to go to that venue again. Not having toilets within reach can prevent disabled people from working – this is what happened to Boots Opticians when they failed to provide a nearby accessible toilet for a member of staff.

 

Type 2 – Accessible to some athletic wheelchair users who can perform acrobatics.

The second type displays the wheelchair symbol and is a toilet that should meet building regulations for wheelchair access.  The sticking point with these is that the recommended space is only big enough for the length of a compact /short length chair – and not everyone has one of those.

WC_dimensionsHere is a scaled picture of a wheelchair accessible toilet according to building regulations. The green rectangle is the footprint of my NHS power chair. Next to it is the recommended (same scale) turning area the regulations use for ‘enough space’. As you can see it’s based on a manual chair, it’s a tight fit and it doesn’t mean there is available floor space by the toilet where you actually need it!

 

Throw in the difficulty caused by the addition of a baby changing unit on the wall and baby nappy bin on the floor – no floor space or room at all to turn!

To deny someone appropriate toilet facilities is a huge black mark in the book of human dignity and rights.

 

My husband has to stand me up and then hold me to try and swing round and move me backwards between the gap of the sink and my chair, to sit on the loo! You have to be a circus performer to pull that one off without falling and banging into things. Not to mention trying to maneuver your clothes off …. that’s when you say ‘sod it’ and stay at home.

Type 3 – Accessible to all and includes an adult changing bench and hoist. They are known as Changing Places toilets.

These are few and far between – only 600 in the UK – if you need to change a pad without these facilities you might have to lay on the floor of a public toilet like this child has to do.

5. So what do you do then?

Stay at home, don’t visit family for long periods or spend lots of time finding out about the exact nature of the toilet facilities on offer – then decide whether to go or not.

Even more degrading for women.

Some men have the options of using a portable urine bottle – but women experience the most difficulty having to transfer to the loo every time and also deal with menstruation. Give yourself pins and needles so you can’t move your legs much, wear mittens and then try and change a pad or try asking your husband to help …. now try it in a cramped toilet on the first day of your period with the nauseating smell of baby poo lingering in the air. Not so nice is it?

Welcome to my world and hundreds of thousands of women like me – a part of our lives that goes unspoken about, unnoticed  – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

With proper facilities, assistance and good information, we can make informed choices and retain a level of dignity and hygiene that might otherwise be flushed down the pan.

Louise Watch, writing for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014.  BADD2013

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2014

But you don’t look disabled… why are you using an accessible toilet?

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I’ve written before about people who abuse accessible toilets and don’t need to use them by their own admittance.   However, amongst people who walk in and out with no obvious mobility, sensory or learning difficulty are people with hidden needs for these facilities.

Sherrill Hawker has written an excellent post for us, as our guest blogger, about why she often needs to use accessible toilets when she doesn’t look disabled.

You can read her blog on: http://ostomychampagnelifestyle.wordpress.com/

and find her on Twitter: @SherrillHawker

IMG_0085But you don’t look disabled……

This is what I am sure many people think when they see me go into a disabled toilet, especially when I use my RADAR key. I am sure people think that I am just trying to skip the queue when I hop into an empty disabled toilet, but this really isn’t the case. I don’t overly care what people think but I guess there is a small part of us all that doesn’t want people to think we are ignorant morons! And by that, I mean I would never park in a disabled bay and if I did I am sure people would secretly tut tut at me for doing so and so I suppose I don’t want people thinking that of me when I use a disabled loo.

You see, I have an Ostomy, which means I wear a stoma bag which is attached to my stomach to collect waste from my small intestine. I had a debilitating bowel disease called Ulcerative Colitis which got so bad that I had to have emergency surgery to remove my large bowel.

I don’t look disabled, there is nothing you can see by looking at me that would indicate my need for disabled facilities, I am not in a wheelchair, I don’t have any missing limbs, I am young and look fit. But what you don’t see is my stoma bag I wear beneath my clothes, the bag that fills up gradually over the day, the bag that needs emptying regularly, the bag, that if not emptied will burst and I will end up covered in poo. No-one knows you wear a stoma bag, it is impossible to tell, they are surprisingly discreet, but it is something we have no control over, we can’t tell it not to fill up, we can’t hold on to it until it is more convenient. So when the need arises to empty, I personally prefer to do it in slightly more private surroundings. Like any poo, it smells, but unlike (and I know this may be a bit TMI!) people with large intestines, it is more acidic, more raw, it hasn’t gone through the usual bodily processes. So it’s nice to have some privacy and not feel paranoid about the smell. Now, I generally don’t care what people think, I am not going to see them again, and when I have to use a ‘normal’ toilet I have deodorising sprays and perfume which helps, but I still like the privacy. There are also times in which I may need to change my bag, it is rare, as once done at home I tend to be ok for the day but every now and then, the inconvenient leak happens which requires a change of bag. Can you imagine trying to manoeuvre yourself in the smallest cubicle known to man, having to deal with changing a bag and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, plus the need for access to water?

Unfortunately, people assume that to use a disabled toilet you must look disabled, what people don’t realise is that there are people like myself who need use of a disabled loo.

I think the worse thing for me is when I may go to a busy bar or club on a weekend. It fills me with dread that I may need to use a ‘normal’ toilet to empty, as I have said, I am not ashamed, but on a busy weekend, where alcohol is involved, people are unforgiving and not backward about coming forward if they think the cubicle smells. It’s a horrible experience and one I try to deal with as best I can, I just get on with it, but it is these times especially that I prefer a disabled loo. But you know what? In a busy bar or club the disabled toilet tends to be locked and only a member of staff can open them (they often don’t use the RADAR key system).  This means that I have to find a member of staff to open it for me and then I am having to explain why I need to use it when they tell me it is for disabled people only!! I could name and shame but I won’t, but the point is that I don’t want to have to explain myself to anyone, why should I? I understand that they are worried about drugs but why should those of us that don’t look disabled need to explain our reasons? Fortunately (well the majority of the time) it isn’t an ‘emergency situation’, when I had Ulcerative Colitis (which basically means you have barely any control over your bowels) if I had to stop to ask for a key or try to find a member of staff then I may have sh** myself there and then!!

So, I guess what I am trying to say is don’t judge those who don’t look disabled but need to use a disabled toilet, bars & clubs listen up and do something about your locked disabled loo situation so those like me, don’t have to explain ourselves and if you walk into a toilet cubicle that smells, before you turn your nose up in disgust, just think that someone may be really suffering.

 Post comment: This post has had a number of people contact us via Twitter, sharing similar experiences and blogs they have posted on the same topic. Here is one of them below:

Accessible toilet signs – what they mean.

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Updated 2017

When looking for suitable toilet facilities, what do the signs actually mean and what facilities can you expect in the UK?

Changing Places Toilets

Changing Places toilet symbol

This is the symbol for a Changing Places (CP) toilet. You will find it on signposts and the door to the toilet as well as leaflets and other literature.  It very clearly shows what you might find inside that differs from other accessible toilets. The three key features are:

  •  a hoist (bring your own sling/vest) 
  • an adult sized changing bench
  • more space

Changing Places toilets feature a large space for people to move around – as needed by people who use powered or specialist positioning wheelchairs or who require assistants to help them.

They are unisex toilets and the toilet is centrally located with space both sides (with a privacy screen). 

Many also have a shower facility. Facilities are also mapped and photographed to easily locate them on the Changing Places Website.

Many will use the RADAR toilet key to gain entry (which can often be borrowed from a nearby location/service desk).

*In the USA larger toilets are often known as Companion Toilets.

Space to change toilet 

The door sign may be identical to the above as this toilet space has a hoist and changing bench but is smaller to a Changing Place. 


Accessible Toilets with wheelchair symbol 

Disabled_toilet_2Accessible_toilet

 

The international symbol of a wheelchair user to represent disabled people is used on toilet doors to indicate an accessible toilet.  Sometimes the words ‘Disabled Toilet’ are used to indicate a toilet facility clearly with both words and a symbol.

Accessible_Toilet_Sign-2

However, this is not popular with many people who believe that disability is only present if the person is excluded or put at a disadvantage by society in some way.  Therefore, if they have appropriate toilet facilities, a person with an impairment is not ‘disabled’ or excluded/disadvantaged in that situation (so you wouldn’t use the term ‘disabled toilet’).

An accessible toilet is the wording preferred by some people.

 

Unisex_disabled_toilet_sign-2

This is a very clear sign.

It uses the universal symbol of disability in an appropriate blue and highly visual colour. It also shows the male and female figures indicating it is a unisex toilet. This is important for people who need assistance in the toilet by someone of the opposite sex. It clearly has the word ‘Toilet’ on the sign with the braille text beneath.

Facilities

You can expect varied facilities such as: 

  • support / holding rails (horizontal and vertical grab bars,
  • lowered or raised toilets, 
  • lower mirrors
  • lower hand wash basins/driers.
  • emergency cord
  • contrasting colour schemes
  • space for manual chairs

Some have none slip flooring and large waste disposal bins. Many have paddle/easy flush handles. However, they do not necessarily mean there is space for power wheelchairs, scooters or larger manual wheelchair users.
There are a lot of variation in layout and facilities in the UK despite guidelines and equality legislation.


This is a sign being adopted by businesses who wish to remind people who negatively ‘glare or comment’ that people don’t look disabled and entitled to use the toilet. It reminds people that just because you can’t see their impairment, it doesn’t mean they don’t need accessible facilities e.g. People with arthritis, autism, epilepsy, D/deafness, mental health illness, bowel/bladder impairments etc. 

Restroom, Loo or WC?

In the UK you may see the sign WC. This is an old English abbreviation for Water Closet (which refers to a flushing toilet). A toilet is also frequently called a ‘loo’ or ‘lavatory’ / ‘lav’.  Most people in the UK use the word ‘loo’ or ‘toilet’.

Ambulant Toilets – person with a stick symbol 

Ambulant_toilet

Popular in Australia and other countries (and now being seen in the UK) are toilets with a picture of a male or female stick user. This represents disabled people who have mobility difficulties but who can walk. If a place can not provide a wheelchair accessible toilet, these toilets may have some facilities such as support rails or supported seating or higher toilets.

Some people find them confusing and they attract many complaints. However, what is worse, as a disabled person, is going somewhere which says they have an ‘accessible’ toilet but it is only accessible if you can walk or don’t need a space for your wheelchair.

I find the symbol of a person using sticks very clear and informative whereas the wheelchair symbol doesn’t even mean there is wheelchair access – it’s just being used as a symbol to represent all disabled people and not specifically wheelchair users nor the larger spaces they need.

Symbols are not representative 

The wheelchair or stickman symbols do not represent people with impairments that may need accessible toilets such as 

  • People with bladder or bowel disease 
  • People with autism
  • People with learning difficulties
  • People with mental health illness
  • People with sensory loss
  • Carers