Celebrating Accessibility and Inclusivity in Washroom Solutions
Every year, the United Nation observes and celebrates the International Day of People with Disabilities every 3rd of December.
The World Health Organization joins the UN in observing the international day of persons with disabilities annually, emphasising the crucial importance of securing the rights of people with disabilities, enabling them to effectively, equally, and fully participate in their respective communities and in society as a whole and across all aspects of their lives.
About International Day of People with Disabilities
The UN asserts that disability inclusion is an essential component when it comes to recognising, upholding, and respecting human rights, peace, security, and sustainable development globally. An elemental condition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that maintains no one is to be left behind, inclusivity of all persons with disabilities and realising their rights and wellbeing is not only considered a matter of justice but an excellent investment for the future.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to aggravate those pre-existing inequalities, bringing to light the expanse of exclusion and that working on disability inclusion should now be imperative. Reported to be at around one billion people worldwide, people with disabilities are amongst the most excluded groups in our society, and with the group’s fatalities, they are essentially the hardest hit in this global crisis.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is all about boosting awareness and promoting the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities across all aspects of society and development. The day recognises people with disabilities and acknowledges the importance of addresses and realising their rights and wellbeing in all aspects of social, political, cultural, and economic life.
In June 2019, when the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy was launched, the UN Secretary-General highlighted the need for the UN to lead by example, raising the global organization’s performance benchmarks and standards on disability inclusion across all pillars of their work. The International Day of People with Disabilities 2021 forms part of the various policies of the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy.
Document M Building Regulations and Accessible Washrooms
Whether you’re a school, a restaurant, a theatre, a museum, or any corporate office, providing washrooms for your staff, employees, clients, and customers involves taking into account everyone, including those who have disabilities. It’s likewise important to take things one step further than that by having the initiative to preempt any disabilities your future personnel, employees, and customers may have.
Failing to provide accessible washrooms does not only restrict or limit disabled users from using your commercial washrooms or working at your business, it can also be seen as flagrant discrimination to people with disabilities.
In new build properties, the Document-M of Building Regulations, which covers the statutory guidance and regulations for access to and use of buildings in dwellings and buildings other than dwellings, providing a baseline for accessibility in the built environment, must be strictly adhered to.
Adherence to the Doc M Regulations simply means that your building and all the facilities within should be easily accessible to everyone, including most particularly disabled people, especially those who use a wheelchair. In addition, people with disabilities should be able to move freely throughout the building.
This generally includes your commercial washrooms complying with the said regulations, such as implementing an outward opening door, grab rails, lever- operated mixer taps, specific interior dimensions in the room to provide ample and comfortable manoeuvring space for people with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs, among others.
9 Most Important Features of an Accessible Washroom
Correctly identifying the essential factors of an accessible washroom starts with accurately determining who these features are going to be implemented for. Of course, these commercial washroom considerations should address the pain points of the following users:
- Disabled people on wheelchairs
- Persons with mobility impairments
- Individuals with bladder and/or bowel conditions
- Disabled persons with grip issues, balance issues, or other conditions that need support rails
- People with invisible disabilities who also need to use the washroom facilities
- Other people with disabilities that were not mentioned above
1. Accessible Door and Doorway
For wheelchair users to be able to easily roll in and out, your commercial washroom should first and foremost have doors that open outwards. This is so that it can be easily opened in an emergency situation such as when a person falls or slips while inside the toilet.
Obviously too, your washrooms doorways should be wider than the normal or standard ones. Free from any obstruction in the entrance, the door should be light enough that they can be opened with minimal force. For disabled people to be able to close the door behind them, a horizontal bar on the inside of the door should also be in place.
2. Easy-to-Use and Accessible Taps and Bins
An accessible washroom will have taps that are not only easy to use but will also not require much effort before they provide running water. With some disabilities limiting people with their grips, your washroom taps should be easily usable with a closed fist. Others have taps operated with levers instead of those that run with twistable knobs. Dolphin provides an expansive range of innovative sensor taps such as DB100C-STL / DB125C-STL that are not only easy to use but are likewise designed with utmost sustainability features as they offer water and energy usage and wastage efficiency.
The same goes through with bins for your accessible washrooms, which should also be designed in such a way that they can be easily operated without much force and with a closed fist.
3. Basic Sink Amenities All Within Easy Reach Even When Seated
An accessible washroom will have the soap, paper towels, hand dryer, hooks, and toilet paper must all be within easy reach for wheelchair users. Obviously, they have to be hanged or placed at a lower height than the normal standards. Hand dryers, paper towels, toilet papers and the like should also be placed near the taps so people with disability using mobility aids don’t need to touch their crutches, rollators, or wheelchairs with wet hands when they have to dry them off after handwashing. This likewise includes mirrors and sinks in general.
This is likewise directly relevant to WorldVision’s WASH disability inclusion practices, where inclusion of persons with disabilities refers to the concept of “water, sanitation, and hygiene that is available, affordable, dignified, and accessible to all persons with disabilities.”
4. Sturdy Grab Rails and Support Bars
Grab and support rails are basic components of accessible washrooms as they not only provide support for people with disabilities using the loo, they likewise offer balance and stability for those moving around in the toilet.
5. Raised Toilet Seats
People with disabilities, especially those with reduced mobility, will find it difficult to stand up or sit down, let alone move around the washroom. Washroom seats that are designed higher than the normal ones make it easier for disabled people to stand up and sit down while also offering ease and safety for them to transfer to and from their wheelchair with the seat height being more equal between the two.
6. Spacious Washrooms
It is imperative that an accessible toilet comes with extra, even expansive space. Clearly, an accessible washroom needs to be spacious enough to provide space for wheelchair users to be able to turn and manoeuvre around the washroom without much difficulty.
Technically, this could mean providing a clear and unobstructed turning circle for the wheelchair of about 1.5 metres in diameter at minimum. Both sides of the toilet should also be designed with enough space to allow wheelchair users to transfer from either side of the toilet to and from their wheelchair. Washroom tops and troughs should also be implemented with ample space underneath where wheelchairs can easily be rolled right up to it.
7. Visible Working Emergency Alarm Cord
Excellent accessible washrooms have emergency alarm cords in place to use when there is an emergency or someone needing assistance can readily signal for help. These emergency alarm cords, normally designed bright red in color so you don’t miss them, should be hung around. 40 cm from the ground around the full area of the toilet. The washroom or facility staff or personnel who enter the toilet to check on the one who signalled for help should also easily find the button to turn the alarm off inside the washroom area.
8. Clear and Visible Signage
The universal signposting of the wheelchair icon should be clearly and visibly placed if you have an accessible washroom so people with disabilities should not encounter difficulties finding it in your building.
9. Changing Places Facilities
Changing places facilities are specialised washroom facilities particularly designed for people with more complex needs and are completely unable to use the regular and standard toilet, and a good accessible washroom should have this.Among the elements of a changing places facility are an adult-sized changing bed, a tracking hoist system, and other essential features that allow individuals to use the toilet with comfort, complete privacy, and dignity.