For anyone who owns a building which members of the public will enter including bars, nightclubs, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, shopping centres etc. Here are some dos and don’ts from an experienced disabled toilet user for when designing your disabled loo:
1. Have a disabled loo.
2. If you have a slightly feasible excuse for not having one (perhaps your building is listed) please work together with other venues in your immediate proximity to ensure that you can send patrons to use their toilet.
3. Do not use your disabled toilet as a store room for items such as large flat screen televisions on wheels, stacks of infant highchairs, or drum kits (see photo). The presence of these items is obtrusive and may be confusing to drunk people.
4. Do not allow non-disabled patrons (or your staff members) to use the disabled loo rather than their allocated toilet for a ‘private poo’; it is nearly always unpleasant to have to enter a disabled toilet immediately after this occurrence, not only because of the smell but because of the awkward eye contact the ‘imposter’ makes with me as they realise, in horror, that they have used a toilet that they shouldn’t and that I am about to experience the aforementioned smell.
5. Make it an adequate size: there is little point in forking out the money to provide a disabled toilet in which a wheelchair user cannot shut the door behind them due to lack of turning space.
6. Ensure that your disabled toilet does not have to be accessed via a flight of stairs. Need I explain further?
7. If you are a DJ and you notice, from across the dance floor, that the disabled toilet door is being opened, please do not shout down the microphone “get out, that’s the disabled toilet” without first quietly checking whether or not the people entering the toilet are entitled to do so.
8. Install grab rails. Lots of them. The fact that you may have to drill into your tiles to fit them is not a good enough excuse for not doing this.
9. Clean regularly. This may sound obvious but, believe me, disabled toilets are often neglected (I assume because they are allegedly not as frequently used) by establishments who pay excellent attention to the cleanliness of their non-disabled toilets.
10. Provide clear and honest signage about whether or not you have a disabled toilet; when entering a glamorous venue and trying to create an air of ‘who’s that chic?’ mystique around myself, the last thing I want to do is to have to ask whether you have a disabled loo thereby drawing attention to the fact that I may need to poo / wee / change my tampon. It ruins the effect.
11. If your staff members do not know whether there is a disabled toilet in the place they work (which they ought) please remind them not to shout very loudly to other staff members “this lady / gentleman needs the bog!!!”. It’s quite embarrassing.
12. Pay attention to layout: for example, an automatic hand dryer on the wall right next to the disabled person when seated on the toilet will cause great alarm and surprise.
13. Let there be light: I thought this would be obvious but evidence suggests otherwise. Ensure that there is a light in your disabled toilet. It is difficult and dangerous to ‘go’ in the dark even for veteran toilet users.
14. Please do not allow your patrons to have sex or do drugs in your disabled toilet (unless they are disabled) and, if they must, they should at least ensure that they are apologetic, when exiting the toilet, for delaying a disabled person’s ‘wee time’ due to their hedonistic debauchery.
By following these simple rules you will ensure that your disabled customers and their loved ones will not hate your establishment .I suspect there are many people who could add to this list and I await their contributions with eager anticipation.