Thursday, 31 March 2016

A good idea this, but first, toilets.

Disabled toilets are actually quite interesting in their variety.  And also in the ways that they can be done badly.  I'm lucky - I can stand and walk so transferring isn't a problem, so my interest is mostly theoretical, but for those who have to transfer horizontally (i.e. slide from wheelchair to toilet and then back again) it must be a nightmare. It doesn't surprise me at all that there is a whole blog on the subject.

The basics are pretty easy.  Lots of space, some handrails and a big door.  Easy?  That first criteria, it turns out, is the biggest problem.  Disabled toilets have loads of space.  And space is often at a premium in restaurants and shops.  You can see the thought process - lovely big space, we'll just store the high chairs/bulk pack of toilet roll/cleaning equipment in there.  The other thing is that they see the lovely space, realise they also need to provide a baby change area, so in goes a changing table and a really bulky bio-waste bin for nappies.   The problem is, if the toilet is the minimum size and you add those in, suddenly there's not enough room for a wheelchair user to get in, turn around, maneuver alongside the toilet (from either side) and then transfer across.  Add in a helper and it's pretty crowded in there.  Now I've nothing against baby change areas (I've used them enough myself) but if the disabled toilet is going to do double duty, it needs to be bigger.

Then there's the sinks.  Often they're tiny, probably because it's in some guideline somewhere and because the room is probably too small to start with.  But if the water pressure is too high, you end up with a very wet lap.  And the tiny ones don't feel like they're any easy to use than a bigger one, with clearance underneath would be.  They usually require a lot of leaning at an odd angle.

Finally, that red emergency pull cord.  It's not something I'm likely to use, but it's there for a reason.  A very good reason.  If a disabled person falls, for example because they're trying to transfer at a strange angle, they need to be able to grab it to get help.  Easily.  Without standing up (because perhaps they can't).  But cleaners clearly find the cord extremely annoying.  I've seen all sorts of efforts to tidy it "out of the way" - in one extreme case a hook had been installed, a foot below the ceiling, for it to be wound round!  One of the most annoying being to wrap it round the fold down handrails.  Thing is, they're there for a reason as well and it's pretty embarrassing to fold down the handrail (which I do need) and set it off.  Even if you can reach the reset button in a hurry (they're usually clear across the room), even if someone knocks rather than barging straight in while your knickers are down, you're going to do a walk (or wheel) of shame back to your table when that happens in a busy restaurant.

It seems like I'm not the only one who has been silently fuming about the safety cords.  The great Euan's Guide, who run a Scottish version of the J'accede app I used in France last year, have started a campaign and produced A5 cards to raise awareness of the cords.  Here's one I snapped at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago.

I've ordered a supply and have already deployed my first - in an Asda store which had the cord very firmly wrapped around the hand rail (and yes, I did set it off when I untangled it!)

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