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Enabling access

  • Angela May

“As parents, carers, we shouldn’t need someone’s permission or to make an appointment to go to the loo”. It’s a sad reflection of modern life that for people who need accessible toilet facilities away from home, that is how they can end up feeling.

Talking to away from home toilet campaigners, an issue that often arises is access: so many accessible toilets, be it a basic wheelchair-accessible or full Changing Places facility, are locked inbetween use. Users have to phone or find someone to provide a key, who sometimes will even escort them, to the facility, unlock it and wait outside until they are finished.

The problem arises because public facilities are abused. They are vandalised. Toilets are used for purposes other than personal hygiene. Even the accepted means of access- a RADAR key- can be easily obtained without any proof of disability or need.

What are the alternatives? They only comparatively fool-proof solution I can think of is for a buzzer to release the lock, with, sadly, a CCTV camera by the door so the provider can check and see the person wanting access is actually disabled.

At least that removes the effort- and when you care for someone with complex needs, it is an effort- of trailing round to find the toilet (as they are often not even signposted!), determine how to gain access, trail off to find customer services or wait for someone to come with a key…


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