First things first: what is an accessible toilet?Accessible toilets are designed to meet the needs of independent wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments. They also cater for the needs of people with bowel and bladder conditions (such as colostomy bag users); those with physical conditions affecting their balance, dexterity and grip, and other conditions where physical support from grab rails, additional privacy and the presence of an emergency alarm is helpful, including neurodiverse conditions. Standard accessible toilets are designed for independent use and do not meet the needs of all people with a disability, including those who need help with lifting and handling or changing.
Who needs an accessible toilet?There is a perception that accessible toilets are made exclusively for wheelchair users but in fact, they only make up around 8% of the UK’s disabled population. The other 92% is made up of people with a wide range of disabilities including permanent disabilities, intermittent medical conditions, short-term impairments and hidden disabilities. So a person who needs to use a disabled toilet might be in a wheelchair, but they also might have a colostomy bag, poor balance, be recovering from major surgery, or have a sensory impairment. The point is, you can’t tell by looking at somebody whether or not they have a disability – so beware restricting access to your disabled facilities.
What are the main types of accessible toilet?There are three main types of accessible toilet.
- Ambulant accessible toilets are the most basic. They provide some accessible features such as a higher toilet pan, grab rails, lever taps/ paddle flush, an outward-opening door and an emergency call bell, but they don’t have enough space to accommodate a wheelchair.
- Standard accessible toilets include all of the above plus shelves for colostomy users, a lowered basin and mirror, and crucially, a turning circle large enough for a wheelchair user to enter, turn, reverse alongside the toilet and exit comfortably.
- Changing Places toilets offer the highest level of adaptability and are designed to meet the needs of people with severe disabilities. As well as all the usual adaptations, they offer enough space to accommodate a wheelchair user and one or two carers, as well as providing a hoist system for lifting and handling and an adult-sized changing bench with privacy curtains. Changing Places are now a legal requirement in new public buildings with a capacity for more than 350 people.