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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:
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 :
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
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!
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Every day, disabled women are choosing surgery because there are no usable toilets outside their home.
Sometimes it's an ostomy bag for poo or more frequently a supra pubic catheter. A catheter allows urine to drain from the bladder [through a hole in the skin] into a bag or through a valve into a bottle/toilet. It's a big life changing decision.
Getting surgery for a catheter is the most talked about topic within women's forums and social media groups.
The reason is not often for medical purposes – but simply because toilets are not accessible / available. They don't have the right amount of space or equipment to be usable. Sometimes they aren't provided at all or are padlocked. If you need a hoist then you only have a choice of around 1000 toilets – across the whole of the UK or Northern Ireland. There may be none in the county you live.
Catheters can cause regular infections and several other medical problems – yet bring an element of liberation and the ability to leave the house. They don't remove the need to manage menstruation hygiene though and many women also choose contraceptives or surgery to control this (oral contraceptives pose a high risk for blood clots in women who aren't active) – because they can't get on the toilet.
Disabled women experience the most discrimination when it comes to using toilets. They take the most life changing health risks. This has to change.
Have you had surgery because of no usable toilets? Tell us in the comments below.
The campaign for toilets with an adult bench, hoist and space for 2 carers resulted in the Changing Places Consortium being formed 10 years ago.
Whilst significant campaigning (largely by individuals with varying styles and mostly by parents) has resulted in the provision of over 850 of these toilets, we wondered whether it’s time for a change?
There is no single campaign or campaign strategy for changing places – individuals can do whatever they want. This makes the campaigns disjointed and dilutes or replicates efforts. You see this regularly across the multitude of social media accounts/Facebook Pages and private blogs identifying themselves as campaigners using the CP symbol. Whilst Aveso and the Consortium generate information sheets and ‘Selfie Kits’ etc … there is a blurring of who or what is the ‘official’ approach.
Protecting young people
Take the recent episode of parents who collected and posted pictures on the Internet of children (and other people’s children and young adults) on the toilet floor, face showing and wearing incontinence pads. Young people unable to consent to this undignified use of their image. If a school or care business did this it would be a serious child protection and human rights issue. However, when I raised this as a concern the Consortium said parent campaigners are not affiliated with them and can do as they wish. This didn’t stop their official social media accounts from sharing the images. Mixed messages ensued across multiple Internet forums. The rights of the child were lost amidst the the cause, angering many disabled people.
Would not the responsible approach be to support campaigners with training in methods and ideas which protect the privacy and dignity of children? Just because dignity was lost in being on the floor doesn’t mean the indignity should be extended by their image being shared. Is this the sort of campaign that can only achieve success by using increasingly shocking images? Thankfully many people did indeed use their creativity and there has been a reduction in the use of children as dignity martyrs – and so individual efforts continue and the campaign actively promotes them.
Pen v. sword?
Individuals can approach companies in any way they want ranging from polite letters and personal conversations to social media harassment.
It is likely that as much harm as good has been done with these tactics which has divided campaigners for toilet equality. How can you have a meaningful, positive conversation when the previous contact they had with a campaigner was focusesd on personal anger, emotion and frustration.
It’s easy to get angry when you have struggled that day in a cramped toilet and are gathering up your evidence to make a complaint or have ‘that’ conversation. You want to throw the book at them, yell at them. You want to drag them into the toilet and make them see what you have to go through. You want them to empathise and make things right – but all you get is a ‘sorry you were unconvenienced’ letter to fuel the next stage of complaint.
It’s hard not to let personal emotions damage your chances of negotiating an agreement to provide a toilet you and thousands of others can use. However, we have to remain polite, persistent, factual and professional. Unfortunately not all campaigners do – and that’s a big problem.
Time to rename and rebrand?
Many have kept their distance or tried to move things on locally. There have been issues with Changing Places being built that fall short of the recommended guidelines of 12 sq metres. That said it is a guideline. Some felt a smaller room was acceptable and out sprang the Space to Change campaign with its own logo. Then things became problematic with determining which ones were listed on the CP toilet map.
Recently a local campaign for a new branding of ‘Hoist Assisted Toilets’ has gathered momentum. In fact, one of the problems with the CP toilet was that they were very focused on the needs of people who used incontinence pads. This alienated (in name and focus) people who were continent but needed a hoist or those who needed a bit more space or other equipment. People didn’t like asking for a Changing Place due to the remaining stigma of incontinence.
This has led to CP toilets being called other names including ‘high dependency unit’, ‘Space to Change’, ‘Adult Changing Room’ etc. It’s confusing and has resulted in staff and visitors talking cross purposes and toilets not being found. If there was a single campaign with good leadership, one name, one symbol and one strategy then we might have more of these toilets.
The future of toilets
The result of the above could indicate that change is needed in many areas if we are to benefit from more Changing Places toilets in the UK.