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Inconvenient Conveniences

Overlaying a medium purple background, toilet roll graphics are scattered about the image. In the centre top is the male gender, female gender and wheelchair user symbols often seen on accessible toilets. Underneath that, are the words 'Inconvenient Conveniences' in bold, pale pink text.

Is it me, or are all accessible toilets entirely different? Although this might not necessarily be a problem for many Disabled people (because, of course, we are all different, too), I must have a little rant about it.


Before I begin, however, I should state that I’m not qualified in -- and have no knowledge of -- what is currently considered to be the “correct” legislation in regard to disability-friendly lavatories. I speak from personal experience. I understand that variation in accessible toilets could be considered a good thing in that this enables choice; in theory, Disabled people can find accessible toilets that suit their individual needs. After all, everyone who uses accessible loos have entirely different health problems.


Nonetheless, one of the problems with accessible toilets (even in some very helpful [local] shops, who are otherwise enormously understanding) is that they are sometimes used as the storage room for the rest of the toilets on a site. For example, several large bins might be put in the rather small room that is supposed to be a disability-friendly toilet. This takes up the space needed for wheelchair users to transfer themselves from their chair to the toilet itself. Luckily, I can stand up and take a few paces to reach the toilet, but others cannot, and this is problematic. Often, I might also find a mop, cleaning bucket, and even cleaning cones in an accessible toilet. My husband finds himself having to move these out of the way before he can get me in the room!

Same motif as the first graphic, except with the words ‘Often, I might also find a mop, cleaning bucket, and even cleaning cones in an accessible toilet’ in bold, pale pink text.

To be fair, in Norfolk, accessible toilets aren’t all too bad. Rather, my husband and I have issues with finding an adequate loo when we’re traveling (with the added nuisance of feeling quite desperate for one by the time we do!). We don’t expect every petrol station in the country to have a state-of-the-art accessible toilet just because they sell fuel. But, yes, we would have thought that larger motorway stops would be up to standard, considering the times we live in. But are they? No.


Sometimes the obvious is not observed. My ability to transfer myself from one side of the room to the other is quite frequently compromised. I have had instances where it has been impossible to reach the sink or toilet paper because it has been placed somewhere out of reach. We have also had a few difficult experiences in the past with people who walk into the room all of a sudden -- we do lock the doors, I should add. However, RADAR keys often enable someone to unlock a locked door, which appears to be a bad error in the way they operate. Mysteriously, non-disabled people can also gain access at times!


Once, my husband and I were in a local graveyard that thankfully has a very good accessible loo with a RADAR key. When we were in the toilet, somebody decided to use the emergency door release to walk in on us. They carried water bottles; they’d been cycling and wanted a top-up. When they had initially knocked on the door, my husband had responded quite loudly, so they must’ve known we were in there. So, there I was, on the loo, with strangers walking in! Luckily, my wheelchair and husband were in front of me.

Same motif as the first graphic, except with the words ‘So, there I was, on the loo, with strangers walking in!’ in bold, pale pink text.

I could go on of course; unfortunately, we’ve had even worse experiences since that time in the graveyard. I don’t think I even need to go on about the disability friendly loos inside either the “Ladies” or “Gents”. Tricky, especially when you’re in a couple and your spouse is your carer!


After 12 years of quite severe incontinence, I have to laugh about these issues (let’s face it: laughing about what we deal with as Disabled people, together with our carers, is sometimes our best way of coping), but this doesn’t change the fact that I feel embarrassed.


Gradually, there seems to be an improvement and moving towards installing quite a few more Changing Places facilities on their sites (particularly the ever-helpful supermarkets), and more non-Disabled people seem to have a generally better understanding of the sorts of problems Disabled people face, but there is still so much room for improvement. In the meantime, all we can do is try to explain to non-Disabled people just how important our designated facilities are, and why we need them kept a certain way.

Written by an Equal Lives Member

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