When surgery is the only option.

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Every day, disabled women are choosing surgery because there are no usable toilets outside their home.

Sometimes it's an ostomy bag for poo or more frequently a supra pubic catheter.
A catheter allows urine to drain from the bladder [through a hole in the skin] into a
bag or through a valve into a bottle/toilet. It's a big life changing decision.

Getting surgery for a catheter is the most talked about topic within women's forums and social media groups.

Read above one woman's experience.

The reason is not often for medical purposes – but simply because toilets are not accessible / available. They don't have the right amount of space or equipment to be usable. Sometimes they aren't provided at all or are padlocked. If you need a hoist then you only have a choice of around 1000 toilets – across the whole of the UK or Northern Ireland. There may be none in the county you live.

Catheters can cause regular infections and several other medical problems – yet bring an element of liberation and the ability to leave the house. They don't remove the need to manage menstruation hygiene though and many women also choose contraceptives or surgery to control this (oral contraceptives pose a high risk for blood clots in women who aren't active) – because they can't get on the toilet.

Disabled women experience the most discrimination when it comes to using toilets. They take the most life changing health risks. This has to change.

Have you had surgery because of no usable toilets? Tell us in the comments below.

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Helpful or not – petitions

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There are over 80 petitions on Change.org calling for signatures to back calls to governments and businesses for accessible toilets. Most are by individuals calling particularly for Changing Places toilets.

Are petitions helpful?

Psychologically petitions and demonstrations by disabled people and carers are useful – providing the 'I feel I am doing something rather than nothing'. People who sign genuinely want to say 'this needs to change'. However, the reality is that petitions rarely achieve results.

No amount of signatures is going to change the law or monitor adherence to building regulations. In the UK, the government have heard, via parliamentary debates, how we need accessible toilets. They end with empty promises.

As we speak the draft of revised access standards has been drawn up – setting British standards for what could be used in buildings which last over 50 years. They don't include any change to toilet provision. They are based on the dimensions of wheelchairs, for example, from 20 years ago. Petitions won't impact these.

Dilution of support

Petitions aim for x number of signatures …. people might sign one or two but 80? If campaigns were centralised into one petition there could be thousands of supporters rather than a few hundred.

Change in strategy

The movement to ensure toilets for all is disjointed. Often it's based on promoting the needs of children rather than the needs of disabled people of all ages. People with obesity, dementia and autism are often totally ignored. Many campaigns are based on the need for hoists and changing benches – yet we still have toilets being built that are supposed to follow strict building regulations, but don't for 'independent' disabled people. There are failings at every level. Equality laws do nothing to persuade businesses that disabled people need accessible toilets.

What can we do to actually make a difference?

  • Share a petition rather than recreate one for yourself
  • Look out for opportunities to comment on building regulation guidance, local access consultations, health consultations etc.
  • At every opportunity provide feedback about toilet access. Use social media, review websites, council feedback forms, patient feedback cards at hospitals etc.
  • Use formal complaints procedures.
  • Write to your MP
  • Provide witness statements for parliamentary debates

Sounds like a lot of effort? That's why it's easier to sign a petition and have our social guilt relieved – we've done all we can, right? Now everything will be ok?

No it won't – but deep down you know that.

Draft of BS 8300 -2 available for comment

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British standards are helping businesses thrive. Some of them define access for disabled people outside and inside public buildings.

What is a British Standard?

Standards define best practice in many different areas. They’re put together by groups of experts and come in a number of different kinds, from a set of definitions to a series of strict rules. 

… Standards are not the same thing as government regulations, but they’re often used in legislation to provide the technical detail.

(BSI, 2017)

Standard BS 8300 defines access requirements from ‘set down points’ in car parks to the distance to the toilet or width of lifts. There is a section about toilet access, dimensions, fixtures, fittings etc which is best practice. 
A new draft for BS 8300 is available to read and comment on. There are two parts – the toilet section is on 8300-2.

Link to draft BS 8300-1 and BS 8300-2 (enter 8300 in the search). 

Utopia Fair – what is World of Accessible Toilets doing?

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Earlier this year I was delighted to be invited to contribute to the Travelling Toilet Tales film – where a number of us shared our story about planning journeys around toilet requirements. At home I have the right facilities, space, design etc … but outside the home and on holiday it’s a different story.

I chose to contribute via narrating a poem about how difficult it is to go on a day out and find a toilet that is suitable – even with the basics!

Pop to the festival to find out more, listen to our contributions and chat with those attending. I can’t go in person but I will be around on Twitter and our Facebook page to chat about the weird and wonderful (and hugely varied) toilet designs and how this can impact disabled people.

The Utopia Fair will be hosting 35 representatives from contemporary utopian movements from all over the UK on stalls in the Somerset House courtyard. The Travelling Toilet Tales stall will offer the public an exciting first glimpse of a draft of our animated Toilet Tales film. Featuring stories from a range of toilet users, including truckers, disabled parents, and non-binary people, the film is an exploration into the ways in which everyday journeys are planned around the un/availability of a suitable toilet. Visitors will also get the chance to listen to the individual toilet stories in full, browse our postcards and artwork, and talk to the special guests joining us on the stall.

Next door, the Servicing Utopia project will be joined by artists who will invite visitors to create utopian toilet models. This weekend will also present the first opportunity to view the interactive digital Toilet Toolkit and short animated film produced by the Servicing Utopia team. The toolkit is aimed at architects and other design professionals to promote the accessible design of toilet spaces and will allow users to virtually ‘walk around’ toilet spaces and interact with items within the space.

 

Our newest research projects, Travelling Toilet Tales and Servicing Utopia, will both appear at the Utopia Fair in Somerset House in London this weekend (24th-26th June). The Utopia Fair will be hosting 35 representatives from contemporary utopian movements from all over the UK on stalls in the Somerset House courtyard. The Travelling Toilet Tales stall […]

via Utopia Fair – Join us this weekend (24 – 26 June)! — Around the Toilet

Gender neutrality and accessible toilets

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Accessible_toiletSo for the last 6 months or so there has been much discussion on gender neutrality and which toilet you use.

Followed by ‘if anyone can use a toilet, what sign do we put on the door’.  Oh my goodness – do you put a man and a woman, both, half and half, something totally different …. or maybe just a picture of a toilet would be pretty sensible?

Whilst the world goes crazy trying to figure this out …. accessible toilets have been caught in the cross fire.

Our ‘unisex’ toilets don’t have any gender specific symbol

gender_wheelchair_toilet.jpgYou see, we never had any gender identity to begin with. Someone thought ‘we’ might be best represented by a genderless person, usually with no neck, sitting rigid (probably because they sat on a broom handle or something)  in an odd shaped wheelchair.

If we had gender then wouldn’t we have had this toilet sign?

 

 

We don’t think – is this representing a man, woman etc to decide whether to go in or not …. we just see the symbol, on a single occupancy room, and know that beyond the door is a toilet which is hopefully surrounded by adaptations and space to use it.

This symbol isn’t even toilet specific – it might not be a toilet behind the door it could be an ‘accessible’ anything because this is just a universal symbol for access in relation to disabled people.

Not only genderless but not representative

One of the issues is that this symbol doesn’t even represent three quarters of the people who can use an accessible toilet – anyone with a medical condition who needs the adaptions or quick toilet access.

It doesn’t represent people who have an impairment but don’t use a wheelchair. It’s also a major barrier for people who think the symbol represents disability and they don’t identify with being disabled (e.g. older people, people with IBS and mental health problems often do not define themselves as disabled and feel the toilet is for ‘others’). How do you get over that?

Do we need a totally new, universal accessible toilet symbol – and how on earth could we pick something meaningful to everyone. This has been the problem and reason why most countries stick to keeping the symbol of a wheelchair user.

Why this symbol does not make it the designated gender neutral toilet.

Because of the rise in people speaking out about needing a toilet that is gender neutral, some businesses are saying ‘ we already have a toilet just for you [points to the accessible toilet].

This is not a toilet for ‘anybody’ to use … if people don’t have an impairment then they shouldn’t be taking up a toilet with adaptations.

People looking for a gender neutral toilet don’t want to be taking up facilities that are for disabled people. It’s awkward and discriminatory, all round. People just need a toilet. One with adaptations and one without. It’s simple.

Disabled people might need quick access to the toilet because of their medical condition (and may need to go more frequently and stay longer). Every ‘other’ person (be it a parent needing baby changing or a transgender person etc) is taking away the accessibility feature of ‘availability’ every time they use it.

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I sincerely hope that we don’t start seeing this sort of thing become the norm. A sign to represent a gender neutral toilet – attached to what used to be an accessible toilet only for disabled people. I am hearing that this is starting to happen though and it’s worrying.

This will cause so much distress to disabled people who need quick toilet access but may now have to wait because the toilet has been opened up to anybody – all because of a sign.

 

 

Launching our new campaign

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Today we launch our new campaign #BiggerIsBetter [Bigger Is Better].

We hear over and over again how much people struggle with the size of wheelchair accessible toilets.

Unfortunately, the size suggested by building regulation guidance is far too small for the types of wheelchairs and scooters that people use today.

We need to raise awareness and explain why meeting  building regulations does not mean they are meeting their legal duties to provide usable toilets under the Equality Act [Disability Discrimination]. Very few businesses are aware of this.

Wheelchair users can often not get into these toilet spaces, turn around or transfer safely. They become unusable. An unusable toilet might as well not be built.

Every toilet that gets built to this size could mean decades of  being unable to use that toilet. If nothing happens now – the future will remain bleak.

If the standards are not going to change, then the only way forward is to reach out to as many businesses and new developments as possible and encourage them to see that bigger is better.

 

We need to encourage larger spaces and where possible Space to Change or Changing Places. Without larger spaces, wheelchair and scooter users will continue to struggle to live as equal citizens in the UK.

Please join the campaign and help spread the word. Share our posters, pictures and your experiences.

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Standards for people with sight loss

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For buildings completed since October 2015, the following features will satisfy the requirements for sanitation provision.

These features are essential so that people who are blind or have a visual impairment, can access the toilet.

General considerations

  • Contrasting colour of door handles, door and door frames – always good to know where the door is and how to open it! 
  • An auditory alarm to warn of a fire (i.e not just a visual indicator)
  • An emergency chord alarm that is distinguishable from the fire alarm
  • An emergency chord that is identifiable and visible
  • Surface finishes of fittings and support/grab bars must have a particular level of contrast with the wall and floor (and the wall and floor should also contrast).

I have been into many toilets where there is a white floor, white walls, white toilet, white sink, white emergency chord  ….. a field of white glare to many people with visual impairments. I also find it a bit disorientating and I have good vision.

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Lack of contrast colours in a hospital accessible toilet and written only information

The statement on what is meant by ‘visual contrast’ has been deleted in the latest Building Regulation Doc M. Further work is being done to evidence what level of contrast or finish might improve visibility.

Light reflected of surfaces can be measured – called LRV (Light Reflection Value) when a surface is illuminated. Nearer to 0 would represent black and nearer 100 represent white on this scale.

The difference in visible light reflected provides differences in these values.  A LRV difference of 30 was generally a good figure to use and to avoid high gloss finishes. This would enable more people to tell the difference between surfaces when their vision is impaired – which may cause a reduction in the hue (nature of the colour) or chroma (intensity of the colour). 

Equality Act considerations

For any toilet room / toilet block, the following are also ways to meet the Equality Act 2010 to complement the above.

  • Clearly defined toilet roll dispenser (or toilet roll)
  • Assistance to navigate to the toilet room
  • A Braille description is good practice for any visual signs (toilet door symbol, warning signs, how to operate equipment etc). 
  • Appropriate space inside or outside the toilet room for assistance animals.

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People with sight loss need to be able to find a toilet and use it to have equal access to sanitation. This might mean altering signage or providing someone who can audio describe where the features are in the toilet. 

I’ve been to toilets where the  toilet roll is randomly placed on the floor, a shelf or ‘pick a wall, any wall’. This would probably be unlawful as it creates barriers for people.

The last thing you want to be doing is feeling around a public toilet or having to get so close to see something that you can almost touch it with your nose. Pretty disgusting.

Poor lighting, flickering lighting – it all makes a difference.

It is also useful to consider that some people with sight loss may also have other impairments such as learning difficulties, hearing loss, brain injury, or a person be on medication which impairs vision – so they should be equally able to use an accessible toilet. 

Attention to lighting can help people with autism as well – so insist on new accessible toilets meeting the full British Standard as a minimum to feel confident you have tried to be as inclusive as possible.