The needs of the most…
Toilet discrimination has been in the headlines again- is it ever out of them?- most recently because of gender and sexual orientation.
Simultaneously, a new research project- Around the Toilet- has published its findings and recommendations for an accessible toilet space.
It raises a point few of us probably even think about. What does accessible mean? To most of us, that means someone with a disability can gain access. It actually means that anyone can use, reach, enter- regardless of age, size, gender, culture, religion, or whatever other label one wants to use.
In toilet terms, the latest British Standard on inclusive building design- BS8300:2018- has gone a long way towards creating an appropriate design criterium for accessible toilets, in the full sense of the word as above.
Whilst the Standard is advisory, best practice, and carries no legal compulsion to provide, it is the cross-reference point for the relevant Building Regulations (Document M 2013). Both state that where space is limited, then the very least that should be provided is a unisex, wheelchair-accessible toilet. Thus the needs of the majority are met.
As far as best practice is concerned, both advise that where space etc etc permits, then a Changing Places assisted wheelchair-accessible toilet facility should be provided in addition; the Standard says in this case, it is also beneficial to provide a wash & dry toilet, to deliver independence and/or dignity to the disabled user. The Standard obviously, from its name, focuses on disability, but such a toilet also helps with cultural and religious considerations.
So, next time Building Regulations are reviewed, is it time we turned our traditional thinking on its head?
Instead of providing at least four different facilities- male, female, baby change, wheelchair-accessible- should we start with one, all-encompassing, that addresses age, gender, ability, culture and religion?
Create a unisex wheelchair-accessible toilet with peninsular wash & dry WC, hoist, changing bench (at least adult-sized), privacy screen. Then add another one of those, and then start adding the male, female, separate baby change etc etc. This genuinely means all age, gender, ability, continence, cultural and religious considerations are covered.