Before I start this blog, I know it's going to probably offend a few people. In fact, when I brought this subject up on Facebook, one of you deleted me simply because you didn't agree. I'm bringing this up because I feel that this is an issue that affects everyone, and especially people who use this site. That issue is disabled toilets, who should use them, and what facilities they should have.
A disabled toilet is a very small room with a lock on the door. Once you get inside the small room, there is a toilet with a very unsteady-looking rail to help people on and off the toilet. There is also an extremely small sink with one tap that splashes you when you turn it, and that's about it. All of this is just about acceptable if your only issue is that you are a wheelchair user with no incontinence issues, but for anyone else, this just isn't enough.
Firstly, there needs to be a bigger sink with two taps. If people have problems with incontinence, they actually want to clean themselves, not splash themselves with hot water. There also needs to be some kind of table that people can change themselves on and a bin to throw away the non-flushable stuff. For convenience's sake, gloves and wipes dispensers would also be useful but not essential.
Secondly, there is the issue of getting into the toilets. A lot of disabled toilets these days have some kind of locking system. Sometimes it's a lock that you can send away for a key for, but a lot of the time you have to go to the people who manage the toilets and get them to let you in. At which point, they get very confused because you don't look like the picture of the man on the door. After much argument, they let you in, during which time you've probably already made a mess and could probably benefit more from a room with a big sink and a changing table, none of which you will find in a modern disabled toilet. Now, this is where it gets a bit controversial. The main reason for the lock on the door is so that nobody who doesn't look like the guy in the picture on the door uses the toilet. My issues with this are that firstly, not everyone who uses disabled toilets requires the use of a wheelchair. Secondly, people aren't stupid; they know what the toilets are for. Sometimes you might get the odd person who uses the toilet when they don't need to. We've all done it sometimes, but not all the time, and not everyone does it. Usually when the other toilets are being used. The important thing to consider with this issue is that the inconvenience caused by this rare occurrence really worth the inconvenience and embarrassment of having to get somebody to come and open the door for you?
The third issue I have with disabled toilets and the issue that I think causes the most controversy is the issue of who gets to use the disabled toilet. My personal opinion is that anybody should be able to use the toilet as long as those who don't need it give priority to those who do. However, there are a lot of people who would get very angry with this opinion (and delete me off Facebook) and think that disabled toilets should only be used by people who need it, and everyone else should wait until the regular toilets are available, even if nobody is using the disabled toilet at the time. This ideology brings up another issue, and that is what are the criteria for requiring the use of a disabled facility? In my opinion, it's anybody who cannot use the regular toilet facilities for reasons of disability or incontinence. Amazingly, it seems that nobody else knows this, including the people who manage the toilets, the people who use the toilets, and the people who design the toilets. If you actually look at a disabled toilet, it is obviously designed (badly) specifically for the use of people in wheelchairs, and that's what everybody seems to think. Which is why when people see someone using a disabled toilet who is not in a wheelchair, they get very angry and always feel the need to point it out and embarrass you. This is very annoying, not just because physical disability isn't the only reason people use these toilets. In most public toilets, there is an end cubicle with a rail which was designed for wheelchair users. These cubicles are not designed for people with other issues such as incontinence. So, I find it very strange that when people catch a person such as me using a disabled toilet, they feel the need to question my use of the facility and not someone who is in a wheelchair and could make use of the end cubicle. Nobody does that because it is undignifying and offensive, just like it is when they do it with me, but nobody sees this because nobody knows what the toilet is for!
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