Sunday, 8 November 2009

Can you tell me where your disabled toilet is?

Disability comes in all shapes and sizes. Disabled people in wheel chairs, the ambulant disabled, those with vision difficulties, those with hearing difficulties... the lists are long and varied. The thing a lot of people do have in common though is the need for a toilet which is larger than the average cubicle in public buildings, often additional rails and support, and the need for the toilet not to be up several flights of stairs.

Personally I have difficulty walking, mostly because I have trouble with my balance. Stairs are therefore particularly hard for me (I also have creaky knees, which is just me getting older and nothing to do with the MS!). I also have trouble with my bladder... I couldn't live without my Tena Lady pads that's for sure.

On Friday I went out for lunch, it was a work affair - we went to a very smart restaurant in Soho. Towards the end of the meal I went off in search of the facilities. It wasn't a big place and it was immediately apparent that they weren't in the main restaurant room. The Gents was just off the bar near the coat-check. The Ladies was up a flight and a half of stairs, across and landing and down some more stairs.

After lunch we went to a nearby pub. Again it was a small place... again the Ladies were up a flight of stairs on the first floor.

This is not the first time I have had this problem in older establishments in central London. Because there is a requirement only to make 'reasonable adjustments' smaller and older buildings do not have a dedicated disabled toilet on the ground floor and the facilities are usually located upstairs or in a basement to maximise usable floor space. I have been to pubs where a member of the bar staff has guarded the door so that I can use the Gents on the ground floor, I have been on trips down service corridors to doors without locks... and when all else fails I have trudged up and down flights and flights of stairs. I am fortunate to be able to manage that, there are many who can't.

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