An inclusive approach to convenience is being adopted by East Hants District Council, in what is believed to be the first installation of its type in the country.

The Council is upgrading its public loos in the Lady Place car park in Alton to include a state-of-the-art Closomat Palma Vita automatic shower toilet, changing table and overhead hoist system, to make the disabled toilet facility as accessible to as many people as possible. Work will also include setting the mirror, washbasin and hand-drier at wheelchair height. It is understood to be one of the only four automatic shower toilet installations in a general public convenience in the UK.

The new Closomat Palma Vita looks like, and is no bigger than, a conventional WC with the addition of integral douching and drying.

One simple press of the flush pad (by hand, elbow or body pressure) or the remote control hand switch triggers the washing and drying process, without the handle having to remain depressed, making it easily useable by all, regardless of manual dexterity. If necessary, an additional push at any time can repeat the drying cycle. The functions can be stopped at any time simply by standing up. The Closomat Palma eliminates the need to use toilet paper and thus the hygiene issues of ensuring effective cleansing with paper and transfer of germs through hand/body contact.

The hoist at Lady Place enables wheelchair users to easily manoeuvre from chair to toilet or changing table and back, optimizing independence for people using the facility and minimizing their need for assistance when toileting.

A major motivating factor behind the upgrade is the desire to meet the needs of the local town, which includes Treloar School and Treloar College of Further Education, the UK’s leading non-maintained special school, providing primary, secondary and higher education for 180 students from the age of seven from all round the country.

Explained Brian Redwood, of East Hants District Council Contract Services, “The students from Treloar like to go into the town to shop, but we were aware some were almost ‘housebound’ because of the lack of appropriate toilet facilities in the town. But it is not just the students who need the facilities, but other less able local residents. Our research showed that lack of facilities precludes people from visiting areas where their needs can’t be accommodated, and we felt this needed addressing. The Council has a reputation for the high standard of its public toilets- we have won Five Star Awards in the National Loo of the Year Award in the past, and have upgraded a number of our public toilets beyond the legal requirement. The Council voted unanimously to back the scheme for Alton.”

The only wash and dry toilet to be manufactured in the UK, the Closomat was the first unit of its type in the market and is now the UK’s biggest-selling, being installed in locations ranging from individual’s homes to hospitals, hotels, nursing homes, shopping centres, tourist attractions and even on narrowboats.