Saturday, 9 May 2009

Where is your disabled toilet?

Quite often when I go out to bars and restaurants I find that it is easier to use the disabled toilet. There is a bad habit that eateries and drinkeries have of making the most of their valuable space by putting the toilets in the basement or on the first (or even second) floor. These are nearly always without exception therefore up or down steep and narrow flights of stairs. When you do eventually find the toilets the cubicles are usually tiny, making it next to impossible for me and The Stick to navigate.

So, I got over my embarrassment of asking the bar staff for the disabled toilet... and now I just get on with it. And what strange experiences this leads to sometimes. The law in the UK regarding accessible toilets is under the Disability Discrimination Act, and it requires only that businesses and other premises make 'reasonable adjustments'. Some do, some don't... and the definition of reasonable varies massively.

This week I was in a bar in Central London. When I'd first arrived I'd gone to the ladies and found them to be up a twisting flight of stairs on the first floor. The next time I needed the bathroom I decided I couldn't face another trip up the stairs and asked for the disabled toilet. The barman looked a little abashed and admitted "We don't have one... but I can't wait outside to make sure nobody comes in whilst you use the Gents" - lucky the Gents was on the ground floor!

Another visit to a Central London bar bought an even stranger experience. The toilets were, once again, located on the first floor. When I asked for the disabled toilet I was told to wait a moment and a member of the bar staff would show me where it was. It turned out to be un-signposted in a back of house corridor without a lock on the door!

These are not isolated incidents. Accessible toilet provision in Central London, I have found, is extremely hit and miss, and the annoying thing is that on occasion I find (as do many people with MS) that my bladder is affected and that I need to use bathroom more than most consider 'normal'.

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