Access to toilets is a basic human right
Mary Langan, chair, Severe and Complex Needs Group
- Credit: PA Images
Over many years of taking our son with autism and severe learning disabilities out to public places we have found that one of our most valuable accessories is the "Radar Key", which provides entry to 9,000 accessible public toilets.
For many individuals with problems of bladder and bowel control, which may be associated with a wide range of disabilities, this key not only opens the door to a toilet but also allows access to leisure and social activities.
The widespread closure of public toilets has become a focus of national controversy. The fact that this policy has caused particular distress to many older people and disabled people has been less widely recognised.
Toilet closures have exacerbated the long-standing problems of access to properly equipped and clean toilets. As we emerge from the lockdown there are initiatives to tackle these problems, though we have a way to go.
The Changing Places consortium, supported by Muscular Dystrophy UK and Learning Disability Today, has launched a survey to clarify the scale of the challenge faced by some 250, 000 people who are unable to use standard toilet facilities. The consortium estimates that only 1500 public toilets currently have adequate provisions.
You may also want to watch:
The charity Bowel and Bladder UK – which promoted World Toilet Day last year – has indicated the difficulties that many people with autism experience with the noises and smells of public toilets. It has introduced a Just Can’t Wait Card which leading retailers have pledged to honour when individuals request access to toilets. In the past we have appreciated being allowed access to MacDonald's toilet facilities. Other firms could provide the same courtesy.
The London Toilet Manifesto is encouraging councils to appoint lead officers to implement an annual toilet strategy, including monitoring planning applications and ensuring that information on toilets is widely available. The government has made £30m available to improve toilet access for people with disabilities.
- 1 Haringey Council leader ousted by rival in Labour group vote
- 2 Camden’s recycling rate has fallen – and this rubbish is now urgent
- 3 Revealed: The five most polluted places in Camden
- 4 Hampstead man jailed for pub 'revenge attack' on Jewish Tory barrister
- 5 Highgate mental illness charity sees 'desperation' rise during Covid year
- 6 Highgate primary praises new school street scheme restricting cars
- 7 James, Feeder and Maxïmo Park to play opening night of Kenwood
- 8 Three men charged after police officer injured in traffic stop
- 9 Swimmers launch legal challenge to charges at Hampstead Heath Ponds
- 10 St John's Wood High Street traders' fears after Harry's closure
If we want to help people enjoy social life again and end lonely isolation we must recognise that access to a toilet is a basic human right.
- Mary Langan is chair of the Severe and Complex Needs Group