The disabled population of the UK is now 14.1 million (Dept. Work & Pensions 2019). 64% of people with a disability, who have difficulties with personal care, never take public transport and rather drive (Dept for Transport, 2017).

A man in a wheelchair on a lift of a specialized vehicle for people with disabilities.


The term ‘Disabled toilet’ should be obsolete. An environment that does not support accessibility is disabling and does not reflect on the user. Accessibility is therefore the key term and ensures that everyone’s needs can be met equally.

There are 13.9 million people with a disability in the UK who want easy access to travel, whether for work or leisure; to advance their opportunities or lifestyle; and to do so with choice and dignity, and without additional cost (Department for transport (2020). Considering that people go to the toilet on average 8 times a day, accessible toilets/changing places in transports hubs are crucial. Campaigners maintain that many ‘accessible’ toilets do not even reach the basic standard laid down in Building Regulations.

Tourism for All has campaigned for the industry to go beyond the basic legislative requirement – a Document M package and wheel-in shower – and realise how enhanced facilities, such as including a height-adjustable basin, hoist or a wash and dry toilet, would enable them to maximise provision for the disabled sector. A wash and dry toilet incorporates integral douching and drying, eliminating the need for the user, or their carer, to manually cleanse, thus improving hygiene, dignity and privacy.


Under The Equality Act (2010), organisations are obligated to ensure goods and services are accessible. Providing accessible toilet facilities is a crucial part of inclusivity and should be prioritised.

An accessible toilet is different from a changing space. An accessible toilet is designed to meet the needs of most people with mobility impairments and those with issues with dexterity and grip etc. Standard accessible toilets do not meet the needs of all people with a disability. People with multiple or complex disabilities are unlikely to have their needs met by an accessible toilet.

This document covers the legal requirements and ‘good practice’ procedures for assisted accessible toilet provision in airports, bus terminals, train and underground stations, and ferry terminals.

In essence, if no other toilets of any kind are provided, there should at least be a unisex accessible toilet, with a larger cubicle, peninsula toilet, drop down support arms and emergency alarm. It is also desirable to include a hygiene room/Changing Places toilet.


Building Regulations Approved Document M 2015

Toilet accommodation needs to be suitable, not only for people with a disability, but for all people who use the building.

For people with a disability, suitable toilet accommodation may take the form of a specially designed cubicle in separate-sex toilet washrooms, or a self-contained unisex toilet.

Some people with a disability need to use a toilet more frequently than other users.

The time needed to reach a wheelchair-accessible toilet should therefore be kept to a minimum when considering the location of unisex toilet accommodation.

Ambulant people with a disability should have the opportunity to use an enlarged toilet compartment within any separate-sex toilet/washroom.

The compartment should be fitted with support rails and include a minimum activity space to accommodate people who use crutches, or otherwise have impaired leg movements.

Some ambulant people with a disability find it difficult to use a standard height toilet seat and, for them, it is important that the toilet pan can accept a variable height toilet seat riser.

Where a separate-sex toilet/washroom can be accessed by wheelchair users, it should be possible for them to use both a urinal, where appropriate, and a washbasin at a lower height than is provided for other users.

For wheelchair users in particular, a self-contained unisex toilet is always the preferred option since, if necessary, a partner or carer of a different sex can enter to give assistance.

Wheelchair-accessible unisex toilets should always be provided in addition to any wheelchair-accessible accommodation in separate-sex toilet washrooms. Wheelchair-accessible unisex toilets should not be used for baby changing.

In multi-storey buildings, the consistent location of toilets on each floor can help people with learning difficulties to locate these facilities easily.

In addition, a unisex toilet enables one or two assistants of either sex to assist a disabled person. Some wheelchair users find it difficult to use a standard height toilet.

In large building developments, separate facilities for baby changing and an enlarged unisex toilet incorporating an adult changing table are desirable – a hygiene room or ‘Changing Places’ toilet (see over, BS8300: 2018).


Example of a unisex wheelchair accessible toilet layout


BS8300: 2018

BS8300: 2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment.

The Standard sets down good practice for accessible building design in premises to which the public have access, and/or where they spend a period of time.

It specifically itemises termini, transport hubs, motorway services as benefiting from including such facilities.

People with a disability should be able to find and use suitable toilet accommodation no less easily than people without a disability. The time taken to reach a toilet is an essential element to be taken into account in its siting.

Where space is limited, the provision of a single accessible unisex peninsular toilet for assisted use, caters for all needs and should be sited as close as possible to the entrance and/or waiting area of a building. It should be no less than 2200mm x 2400mm.

A Changing Places toilet aims to meet the needs of people who need a carer to assist, and provides as a minimum:

  • The right equipment i.e. a height-adjustable adult sized changing bench, height-adjustable wash basin, and full room cover overhead track hoist system.
  • Enough space (3m x 4m), to enable manoeuvring for the disabled person and up to two carers, for a centrally located (peninsular) toilet with room either side for carers, and a screen or curtain to allow some privacy.
  • A safe and clean environment, i.e. wide tear off paper to cover the bench, a large waste bin and a non-slip floor.

BS8300: 2018 further adds a note that replacement of a conventional toilet WC with a wash and dry toilet can enable users to have greater dignity and independence.


Changing Places facility

Example of fittings and accessories in a Changing Places facility.

Image showing a Palma Vita with fold-down support arms, height-adjustable wash hand basin, hoist, changing bench and privacy screen in a Changing Places facility.


Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations

The latest Code of Practice came into force in March 2015 and was updated in 2020. It pulls together all current guidance on the provision and location of wheelchair accessible toilets, particularly cross-referring to BS8300, and includes:

  • That people with a disability should be able to find and use suitable toilet accommodation no less easily than people without a disability, toilets must be designed so they can be used independently.
  • Where there is only one accessible toilet it should be of unisex design suitable for wheelchair users and ambulant people with a disability.
  • As well as being accessible to people in wheelchairs, it must be easy to use by other people including those who cannot bend, with limited strength, impaired balance, impaired vision and those who make involuntary movements.
  • Where new toilets are being built, toilets for people with a disability must be provided.
  • A Changing Places toilet should be provided in all large railway stations (category A, which is a ‘National Hub’ station of which there are 28 in the UK), and should be in addition to, not instead of, the provision of unisex accessible toilets.

However, many facilities do not have the space to accommodate a Changing Places in addition to the conventional wheelchair-accessible toilet.

The limitations have been recognised and Space to Change has been designed as a suitable compromise solution between Building Regulations Approved Document M and the BS8300.

Space to Change provides alternative guidance where space is restricted which is more likely to be the case in small buildings and refurbishments.

A Space to Change facility fills that gap. It takes advantage of the additional space often already incorporated into the conventional wheelchair-accessible toilet to further include at least a hoist and adult-sized changing bench.

To enable users and their carer(s) to manoeuvre, a Space to Change should be a minimum 7.5m² (in total, including the 2.2m x 2m of the ‘Document M’ type wheelchair-accessible toilet).


Space to Change facility

Example of fittings and accessories in a Space to Change facility.


Inclusive Transport Strategy 2018

The Department for Transport’s strategy aims to achieve equal access for people with a disability.

It includes providing £2million Government funding to motorway services to install Changing Places. (see BS8300 section above for specification details), which can be applied for here.


Equality act 2010

Under The Equality Act, service providers are required to make reasonable changes – including to the built environment – where a disabled customer or potential customer would otherwise be at a substantial disadvantage; previously, such changes were only required if it would have been impossible or unreasonably difficult for the person to access or use the service.

The Equality Act 2010 requires that service providers must think ahead and take steps to address barriers that impede people with a disability. You should not wait until a disabled person experiences difficulties using a service.¹

Those changes should comply with the legal and ‘good practice’ guidelines outlined above.

¹Government Equalities Office Equality Act 2010 Disabilities Quick Start Guide.


United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 9

“States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation….” (2020).


References

Department for Transport (2017) People with a disability’s travel behaviour and attitudes to travel, retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/647703/disabled-peoples-travel-behaviour-and-attitudes-to-travel.pdf (accessed on 23/12/2020).

Department for work and pensions (2019) Family resource is survey 2018/19, retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874507/family-resources-survey-2018-19.pdf (accessed on 23/12/2020).

United Nations (2020) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, retrieved from: https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/article-9-accessibility.html (accessed on 23/12/2020).

To download this white paper – please click here