Restrooms or toilets provided for people with disabilities often fail to live up to the promises they appear to make. Probably, this is more to do with lack of planning and foresight but also may be influenced by available space. Too often, though, it might be due to finances.
It is bad enough for those who can manage to walk with some assistance but for wheelchair users the situation is more difficult and an extended wait may even be disastrous. I know that from personal experience as MS makes using a wheelchair a necessity and has given me a bladder problem.
There are a number of issues that, for me, make a facility supposedly put there for us, really unsuitable for a person with a disability who is using a wheelchair. And here, for the moment, I am talking about someone who can transfer himself or herself from the chair to the seat itself.
These issues are:
- Where there is a need to share the same room with baby changing facilities;
I cannot remember how many times I have had to wait while mum or dad copes with two or three children, often without a baby at all;
- Where a room for disabled people is located within a single-gender washroom;
Oh great, I am being pushed in a manual wheelchair by my wife. I cannot manouevre the chair myself and my wife cannot enter the ‘Gents’ to enable me to reach the facilities I need. Ridiculous design. The only answer? Ask a passing man to help me.
- Where a room is not large enough to cope with a wheelchair;
Somehow, I get inside, just, and manage to fasten the door – but there is so little room that it is difficult to transfer from the wheelchair and back again.
- Where the emergency pull cord has been tied up or shortened to be out of reach of children.
Yes, I know that they have had problems with children pulling the cord. Yes, I know that it seems like a good idea putting it beyond their reach. BUT, if someone falls on the floor and cannot get up, how is he or she going to summon assistance?
Accessibility does not just mean ramps and level entrances; it does not even just mean accessible parking spaces. It does include the provision of toilet facilities for the disabled and by ‘accessible’ I mean that they need to be: dedicated for such use, not multi-purpose; readily available for people of either gender, not placed inside a ‘Ladies’ or ‘Gents’; large enough to take a wheelchair and allow easy and comfortable transfer; provided with a proper method to call for help if someone has fallen.
Of course, besides the basics, there are needs for even more aids such as hoists, for those who cannot transfer themselves, as well as an adult-sized table or bench to enable a carer to change incontinence pads.
Oh, just one more thing, if you don’t have a disability, please don’t be tempted to use our special room. We need it; you are very fortunate not to do so.