Guest Blog – Inclusivity? Let’s talk toilets.

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Thank you to our guest Blogger this month – Gillian Kemp.

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Gill is the founder of Truckers’ Toilets UK www.facebook.com/TTUKcampaign

and joint founder of Public Toilets UK www.facebook.com/PTUKcampaign  – both are facebook campaigns which aim to improve toilet provision in the UK.

She has been involved with the British Toilet Association [BTA] for a number of years and has given evidence on the effects of public toilet closures to the Health & Social Care Committee at the Welsh Assembly.


Inclusivity? Let’s talk toilets

Mention the word ‘TOILETS’ and what’s the reaction?  Titters? Silence? Embarrassed looks? Jokey responses?  Yet once you get past all that everyone has an opinion of some sort on the subject.  And toilets – whatever you think of them – are needed by all of us several times a day.  Why oh why then aren’t they a regulatory requirement?  That is what the campaign PUBLIC TOILETS UK is all about.  We are trying to gather evidence to show that public toilets are essential not only for our health but also vital to tourism and the economy.  ‘Holding on’ should not be an option.  It can damage the bladder and bowel – and reduce concentration if you’re driving.

In the meantime Councils are closing facilities when we need more.  On the one hand we are told to get out and about but without access to toilets many of us are fearful of stepping outside the door.

Those of us with disabilities whether visible or hidden have additional needs when it comes to toilets.  Accessible toilets suitable for wheelchair users vary greatly.  In some places they are still labelled ‘Disabled toilet’.  Well, to me – and I’m not alone, a ‘disabled toilet’ is one that is not working!!!!   I visited one recently where I couldn’t even open the door – and I’m not in a wheelchair! – so perhaps that one was named correctly!  There are British Standards and building regulations related to toilets but what was appropriate several years ago is, in many instances, no longer suitable for today’s needs.

For those of us with ‘hidden’ disabilities such as ilostomies, diabetes etc space is also an issue, so we can attend to our particular needs.  Others of us with urgency issues such as IBS cannot stand in a queue and need prompt access to a toilet.  We may even need to change our clothes. The only solution to date is to use the Accessible Toilet and I know I’m not the only one to be embarrassed to find a wheelchair user waiting outside.

Going to the toilet is not a choice.  We shouldn’t have to fight for access to a loo.  But the fact is that currently, we do.  Toilets are a prime example of inclusivity – currently you might say ‘exclusivity’. In the 21st century we are still changing a disabled person on the floor.  This is not acceptable.  Thankfully Changing Places facilities www.changing-places.org  are increasing, but there are still many places without one.  If there are no suitable facilities then we are not an inclusive society.

How can we address this?  Where to start?  We must begin talking LOUDLY about toilets.  If you’re embarrassed get over it and join us.  Change won’t happen overnight but if we work together we can begin creating an inclusive society – but we have to start at the bottom!!!!!

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The back stage tour at the 02 – aka where is the loo

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On Thursday we went to the O2 Arena in London for the first time to see a concert. All we knew was that doors opened at 6.30 so we arrived extra early to go for a meal.

The dome has eating venues inside it, which circle the central arena (which also has it’s own food hall for event ticket holders).

The plan was to use the Changing Places (CP) toilet. Whilst the location of the loo is given (both on the 02 and CP website), it became meaningless as it said Block 106 Level 1. We couldn’t find ‘blocks’ mentioned on the maps inside the venue or where this was in relation to our accessible seating in the actual arena.

We also didn’t realise that the loo is just for the Arena (and not for the cinema or restaurants within the dome, but outside of the central arena).  This means it’s only really available from door opening times if you have event tickets and request an access key card.

As the doors were closed we asked a few people who seemed to be ‘sign-posters’ and they didn’t know what a CP toilet was and tried to send us to the cinema accessible toilet area. Eventually, we found a desk of some sorts tucked back out of view to the left of the arena doors.  The person did say they were on level one and that we would be shown up to it because people weren’t allowed in yet and their was security about every 20 metres.  So we waited about 10 minutes for our security escort.

Then we went on a backstage tour with our guide … to a standard loo. We explained we wanted the CP one and the guy said oh the ones on level 1 – follow me. *sigh

So we had to do the backstage tour in reverse, into a staff lift, and up to level 1. Entry to the loo was by key card and the security guy loitered in the lobby to escort us back down.

The toilet was slightly bigger than the regular accessible toilets – but one of the smallest CP toilets we have used,  There was  only just enough room to place my chair to the side of the toilet for a transfer (we were using manual not hoist transfers that night). So, it was a little disappointing on space available for my particular needs.

There is also a speaker system in the loo for public and staff announcements and they pipe music in which makes it hard to communicate with assistants during the moves/lifts etc.

The toilet is a regular one (no bidet / auto cleaning)

However, it was much better than the none CP one we glimpsed on the way in.

We then had to be escorted down in the public lift to the entrance to have our tickets scanned (doors were now open). We had now done a full loop which had taken 40 minutes of walking time all in all.

We then did the back stage tour again – this time to get to our accessible seating on the ground floor. We had a good view – but would have needed a full escort again to take the staff lift to level 1 if we needed the loo again. That is exactly what we had to do at the end of the evening.  We had done so many laps of the back corridors that security staff now greeted us with a ‘hello again’.

All in all, regarding toilet facilities, it is great they have CP facilities but a shame they are not easily accessible from outside the central Arena, and are not easily and quickly accessible from the ground floor accessible arena seating.

Now that we know what to expect, we won’t go so early next time, so that we can time the loo for door opening times.

It’s finally arrived – the Aquarius Porta Bidet

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I’ve been waiting a few years now for this product – and had given up all hope – then today I noticed it had arrived and was ready to purchase ….. so here it is – the Aquarius Porta-Bidet.

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Retailing for the VAT exempt price of £195 (free carry case if you order now worth £25) this might be just what you are looking for – (Pre-order price secured with a £50 deposit until March and free entry into a draw to win one for the deposit price).

I’m excited because the chances of finding a toilet that a) I can get on to and b) has a bidet feature, on holiday, is almost nil.  However, It’s the thing I love about coming back from holiday – oh how I miss my bidet!

So what has this to offer. Well, it’s battery operated which claims a powerful pushing wash nozzle and it gets the water from a reservoir container you place on the floor (so no plumbing or tampering needed).

Let’s look more carefully.

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This is a screen shot from their video on: http://www.aquariushygiene.com/2014/11/14/the-all-new-aquarius-porta-bidet/

I have a portable spray unit like this that fixes just under the lid – which I bought to make my own portable bidet. My unit came from South Korea and cost about £25 …. but pumping water through it was going to be the difficult part … so let’s see how Aquarius Hygiene do it. Interestingly (and somewhat annoying for me) they can bulk by I assume and offer this part as a replacement ‘spray arm’ for only £9.95.

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Again, I have taken a screen shot – you fill the unit with water and it has a built in pump and an on/off switch on a tethered handset (which has a hook if you want to hand it nearby). The nozzle retracts after use (and whilst I couldn’t find details on the nozzle spray unit they used – I assume it has a hygiene ‘rinse through’ to keep the nozzle clean?

The unit is a pleasing aqua green and white colour – no information on how big but here are further details:

  • It uses rechargeable batteries
  • 1.5 Litre capacity
  • Minimum of 50 wash cycles per charge
  • 4 wash cycles per reservoir
  • Under 2kg in weight.

The nozzle is not adjustable – so you get the spray wherever it lands (I know this will be problematic for me because of the way my pelvis ‘sits’ – so if you can’t sit right back on the loo or have pelvic deformity where you don’t sit ‘evenly’ you may just get a wet thigh instead. For me, some water is better than no water!

I’m pretty sure to be getting one – so I’ll give it a full review in the summer when I’m on holiday.

Until then…

Should carers and personal assistants use accessible toilets?

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Assisting someone to use the toilet is probably high up on the  ‘Things I assist with’ list for carers and personal assistants.

This week World of Accessible Toilets will be focusing on carers and personal assistants for carers week. (www.carersweek.org).

Today:  Should carers and personal assistants use accessible toilets?

Generally, its considered abusive to use an accessible toilet if that person doesn’t need the facilities. The main grounds for this are that part of being accessible is also being available – very important if you only get a few seconds warning before having to run to the loo.

So, is it ok for a carer/Personal Assistant to pop to the loo – in the accessible toilet, if there is a queue for the other ones?

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Suppose they are with someone with ‘high support needs’ and don’t want to leave that person on their own for any longer than necessary.  Someone with anxiety, learning difficulties or autism for example may also benefit from assistants being able to quickly use accessible toilets.

Big picture thinking for disability equality.

We need to see access differently – access is bigger than wider doors and grab rails. A carers’ ability to quickly go to the loo, in an accessible toilet, might mean the difference between going out or not, for the person they assist.

The beneficiary is the disabled person – whether they need the loo or not and that is what is important.