You may well have seen the new ‘disabled toilet’ signage, that emphasises not every disability is visible. It’s great that the wider world is beginning to understand that being disabled does not necessarily automatically equate to being in a wheelchair.
We need that perception to extend into disabled provision. Just as not every disabled person’s limitation is visible, not every disabled person can use a conventional accessible toilet, be it an ambulant or wheelchair option.
A large number of the 10million registered disabled population need a carer to help them when away from home. They may need lifting to transfer from the wheelchair to toilet. They may need changing.
None of those needs are addressed by standard accessible toilets. Those do not give the space to accommodate the extra person. They don’t have lifting facilities. They don’t have changing facilities.
Some venues think they are helping by providing separate wheelchair-accessible toilets, one to help people who transfer from the right, one for those who transfer from the left.
But what about those who can’t transfer on their own? Or who may be ambulant, but need a reasonably-sized surface to deal with stoma bags? Or who have soiled a pad and need to change, or be changed, because of continence issues? Those latter ones are invisible disabilities, but disabilities which can’t be dealt with in a standard accessible toilet.
Those separate, ‘handed’ accessible toilets could be merged into one, that is more universal, with a peninsular WC that helps regardless of preferred transfer, a hoist and a changing bench. It would all fit into that same space.
And would address the needs of so many more, whether their disability is visible or not.