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Access the visible and invisible

  • Claire Haymes

NCP BoltonWe’ve all been ‘caught short’- away from home and for whatever reason needed the toilet urgently. For most of us, it’s meant a dash to the nearest facility. 

But what if you can’t dash? What if you have a disability- visible or invisible? 

British Standards in best practice, particularly with regard to access & inclusion (i.e. BS8300:2018) have been updated, and now recognise that many disabilities are not visible, and that many people need urgent access to toilet facilities. For example, 6.5m people have continence issues- be it bladder or bowel- or both! 

The Standard maintains that disabled people. It says they should be able to find and use suitable toilet accommodation no less easily than an able person. There is much emphasis in daily life on disabled equating to wheelchair. There are over 13million people registered disabled in the UK; there are 1.5million wheelchair users. 

So the majority of disabled people don’t use a wheelchair. There are 6.5million carers in the UK. Thereoretically therefore, most disabled people, if and when they are away from home, have someone with them to help them. 

Does that help extend to the toilet? Probably, even if it’s just to help open the door. It is another reason why there is such a need for a review of the legal requirements in the provision of accessible toilets.

Currently, if there is restricted space for any toilet, then the least that should be provided is a unisex wheelchair-accessible facility. In theory, it can be used by everyone. But for anyone who needs help, the venue’s door is still shut to them. There isn’t the space for a carer. There isn’t the privacy of even a screen. 

We will never please all of the people, all of the time. But a slight change to the legal requirements would make society a lot more accessible to a significant proportion of the population.

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