Disabled Toilets – An Idiot’s Guide

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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.

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27 thoughts on “Disabled Toilets – An Idiot’s Guide

  1. Chris Ford (@ctford)

    I realise no one wants to be on the tail end of a “private poo”, but should it be an absolute rule that only disabled people use a disabled loo?

    For example, it seems reasonable to me that a small venue could have only a single toilet, which would suitable for use for people regardless of disability.

    Reply
      1. Chris Ford (@ctford)

        More generally, is there a reason the disabled toilet shouldn’t be in general circulation? Is it because certain classes of disability mean you require quicker access to the loo than other people, so you want to ensure it’s not engaged when a disabled person needs it?

      2. frettingwell Post author

        Yes, for me, that’s the reason why. I confess, before I was disabled, I used to think ‘well if there’s no-one disabled around I can nip in there’. But now I understand that disability can make the need for the loo to be free more urgent.

  2. Natalie O'Donovan

    I have issue with No. 4. Many people have reason to use a disabled toilet without a visibly obvious disability. This seems to line up with No. 7 and the DJ. I would be wary of anyone checking entitlements to use a disabled bathroom. It’s a dilemma. There are many for whom their disability cannot be hidden and they have little choice in putting up with it but I wouldn’t force that on anyone and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone discretion.

    Reply
    1. frettingwell Post author

      Absolutely. agreed. It’s a tricky issue and I purposely invited additional input for comments such as yours. Sometimes I think my wheelchair is useful as a visible sign of ‘entitlement’.

      Reply
      1. Caroline watt

        I just commented relating to this. They do have the radar key scheme but anyone can buy the key regardless. Not a great indicator. I use my disabled card but its normally in my car so not helpful. Perhaps a picture Id that goes along with the blue badge that you can carry?

  3. Anita

    They should know that disabled people use loo roll! Yes..unbelievable but true! Please supply some within easy reach and not on a high shelf. that is all.

    Reply
  4. Sarah

    Granted – using disabled loo out of personal preference is definitely ethically iffy (and apparently aromatically iffy as well). But if there’s a big queue for others? This comes from a person who would use the men’s if there was a queue for the ladies’ and I was desperate.

    Reply
  5. Chris Ford (@ctford)

    I wonder if a solution could be to have more than the minimum number of disabled toilets, and to put them in general circulation. That would help ensure that travesties like lack of cleaning, light and loo roles don’t happen, as the toilets would be frequently used. The need for a quick response time for a disabled person in urgent need would be handled by having more than one option, therefore a short wait time even if they’re all initially being used.

    Reply
  6. Caroline watt

    I’d add “don’t assume just because you cannot see a disability the person doesn’t have a right to use the disabled toilet” I’m referring to the member of staff at the Tower of London who asked to see my disabled card to open the toilets. Um no it’s in my car making sure I can park where needed. He then quite rudely made comments about “was I really disabled” before handing me the key and reminding me to “not to forget to return it”. Just in case I planned on moving in to the said smelly and not overly helpful toilet.

    Reply
  7. The Desperado

    In general it’s a good list one thing I don’t agree with is that A unisex toilet should be off limits purely on the grounds that someone isn’t disabled. If the convenience is vacant then it should be possible to use it. I live in Sweden and one of the annoying facts of life is that toilets are often unisex and especially when there aren’t that many toiletss, that means standing in line with the ladies, so if a toilet is vacant nobody us going to just stand there and pass up the opportunity to make themselves comfortable, it would be against all common sense. I interpret the wheelchair sign as a stall that is appropriate for use disabled people. And as for a toilet smelling of disagreeable odours left by a previous occupant, that’s not just a phenomenon that occurs in toilets that are big enough and equipped to accommodate a wheelchair. It will be interesting to read your thoughts on that.

    Reply
  8. @abdnstooki3

    LMAO.. Very True & Very Funny. Well done, but what about those TERRIBLE Radar Keys? What a SIZE!! I’d like to keep mine handy in my pocket & Not have to carry a rucksack to keep it in!!

    Reply
    1. Caroline watt

      They are giant aren’t they?? I keep leaving mine in my car by accident cause its so big it won’t go on a key chain. Such a pain.

      Reply
  9. Pen

    All valid points you raise Ellie. I find the route to the disabled loo is often a difficult to navigate when pushing a wheel chair. These days why cannot at least one loo in the general facilities be disabled user friendly and inclusive for everyone.

    Reply
  10. The Chronic Chronicles

    Excellent post! I agree with your thoughts above – many disabled people need to use the toilet suddenly and quickly, and without doing so accidents will happen. Therefore in most circumstances it’s not a great idea to use it, even if free at the time.

    I know there are some occations where it’s silly not to – but please keep that in mind.

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Disabled Toilets – An Idiot’s Guide | Optimal Performance Consultants Blog

  12. P. Roberts

    I don’t like the way the designers of disabled loos assume all disabled users are in wheelchairs. They put the washbasins and hand dryers low down (understandably for obvious reasons). They don’t take into account other disabilities and the fact trying to bend to access these causes a great deal of pain. Ideally there should be two of each but this wouldn’t be cost effective. I now have a small bottle of hand gel in my handbag to allow for this.

    Reply

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