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.
- 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.
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.
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.