Let’s talk about “disabled toilets”. Using the toilet is something that we all do, so why do we have public facilities that only cater for some people. Even though there are plenty of supposedly accessible “disabled toilets” in many public places, they are still totally inadequate for people with severe learning and physical disabilities. Adding grab-rails to the edge of a toilet is all well and good, but if you can’t even use your arms, or stand, or get dressed independently, suddenly the rails become entirely useless.
Accessible toilets should incorporate all the things that people with disabilities really need. This includes adequate space, enough to allow for a wheelchair to use its full turning circle as well as at least two more people, the necessary equipment, including a ceiling-track hoist and changing bench, and meaningful opening times. Some disabled toilets are actually locked during the day so people have to search for someone who may or may not know where the key is.
In Britain, premises and councils are required by law to provide accessible toilets but currently it would appear that in many cases only the bare minimum is done to comply with its directives. In my opinion, I do not believe that the law goes anyway near far enough to provide properly for severely disabled people and more should be done about it. I know that discrimination is a word often bandied about, but in this case it seems justified. There is an excellent campaign in Britain called Changing Places that aims to install facilities that are fully accessible and usable for people who cannot use standard “disabled toilets”.
When visiting public places, (including hospitals) I have often been told about the availability of the “disabled toilets” by helpful members of staff who are completely unaware that I am unable to use the vast majority of them. Without going into too much detail, to go to the toilet I have to be hoisted onto a bed or toilet depending on the circumstances but currently this is impossible in most accessible toilets. I have also fallen foul of a locked disabled toilet back when I had some more mobility, which was immensely frustrating to say the least. As I have mentioned previously, going out requires lots of planning so not being able to go to the loo without going home can really impact on your life.
People already see the disabled toilet as an ordinary facility, so why not just make them a bit larger and get the equipment in, allowing everyone to enjoy the same the experiences without as much hassle.