Latest figures from The Department of Work and Pensions shows the number of disabled people in the UK is now 14.1 million people – 1 in 5 of our society. One in five people in the UK have a disability which affects where they choose to stay or visit. Visitbritain.org advises businesses to improve accessibility to gain a share of the £15.3 billion which is spent by people with a disability and their companions in the UK (Visit Britain 2019)
Research shows that 50% of people with a disability feel the most common barrier when visiting places is not having a toilet that suites their requirements (Euan’s Guide, 2019)
This survey highlighted that 79% of disabled people had a disappointing trip or changed their plans at the last minute due to issues with accessibility.
There are 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, including 8% of children, 19% of working age adults and 44% of those over 65 (Family Resources Survey 2019). It is therefore logical and prudent, for any business that relies on visitors and tourists to optimise its accessibility, particularly its toilets.
This document covers the legal requirements and ‘good practice’ procedures for toilet specification for disabled visitors, who need help.
A well-designed accessible toilet with space for changing takes into account: level access for ease of entry into the room, sufficient space for the user and a wheelchair and/or carer, and a layout to enable transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet, by positioning the toilet away from the wall with access to both sides.
The provision of enhanced facilities, such as including a height-adjustable basin or a ‘wash and dry’ toilet, would enable business owners to maximise the spending power of people who would otherwise be disabled by the environment.
A ‘wash and dry’ toilet incorporates integral douching and drying, eliminating the need for the user, or their carer, to manually cleanse, improving hygiene, dignity and privacy.
Building Regulations Approved Document M 2015
Toilets need 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 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 area within any separate-sex toilet washroom. The area should be fitted with support rails and include a minimum activity space to accommodate people who use walking aids.
Some, even if otherwise ambulant, people find it difficult to use a standard height toilet seat and, for them, it is important that the toilet pan can accommodate 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 to locate facilities easily.
The location of the toilet to the basin and other accessories should allow a person to wash and dry hands while seated on the toilet. The space provided for manoeuvring should enable wheelchair users to utilise various transfer techniques that allow independent or assisted use.
It is also important that the transfer space alongside the toilet is kept clear. Horizontal, drop down rails can be useful for some people.
Example of a unisex wheelchair accessible toilet layout
Large building developments
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 below, BS8300:2018). They are compulsory in new public buildings or those having a major refurbishment with a capacity for more than 350 people.
Building Regulations Approved Document M further states that where there is space for only one toilet in a building, it should be a unisex, wheelchair-accessible one.
Campaigners have developed Space to Change as there is an awareness that for many venues, the cost/space required to provide a Changing Places are limiting factors.
Space to Change toilets bridge the gap between conventional (Building Regulations Approved Document M 2015) wheelchair-accessible toilets, and the ‘desirable’, additional, larger and better equipped Changing Places toilets. A Space to Change facility encompasses a 7.5m² unisex wheelchair-accessible toilet, that further includes an adult-sized changing bench and a hoist.
Changing Places facility
Example of fittings and accessories in a Changing Places facility
Space to Change facility
Example of fittings and accessories in a Space to Change facility
BS8300-2:2018 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.
It advises that 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 2.2m x 2.4m.
In multi-occupancy buildings such as hotels, the Standard recommends provision of a minimum 5% of bedrooms designed accessible without a fixed track hoist system, 1% with a fixed track hoist system or similar giving the same degree of convenience and safety, with a further 5% being capable of future adaptation, and always have either adjacent or en-suite sanitary facilities which include a toilet.
The latest version is not specific to new build projects and applies to all building types that require permanent sleeping accommodation for people with a disability.
It also states that if the other accommodation predominantly has en-suite facilities, the accessible bedrooms should also have en-suite facilities (shower or bathroom).
The Standard further recommends that any new building where the public have access in numbers or where visitors might be expected to spend longer periods of time have a Changing Places facility. These include:
- Shopping Centres/retail parks of over 30,000m²
- Retail premises of over 2500m²
- Sport or leisure facilities of over 5000m²
- Stadiums, theme parks and other tourist attractions with a capacity of over 2000 people.
- As well as universities, schools, hospitals, motorway service stations and restaurants.
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, shower and shower seat, and full room cover ceiling track hoist system.
- Enough space (at least 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.
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.
Department of Work and Pensions (2019), retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/households-below-average-income-199495-to-201718 (accessed on 31/01/2021).
Euan’s Guide (2019), retrieved from: https://www.euansguide.com/media/11104384/the-access-survey-2019-final.pdf (accessed on 28/2/2021).
Family Resources Survey (2019), retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874507/family-resources-survey-2018-19.pdf (accessed on 27/02/2021).
Visit Britain (2018) The Value of the Purple Pound, retrieved from: https://www.visitbritain.org/business-advice/value-purple-pound (accessed on 24/01/2021).