In this section, we look at what the minimum requirements are to be sure toilet facilities are suitable for use by people with disability.
For new buildings, the law says that wherever there is a bank of toilets there has to be an accessible unisex toilet (often wrongly referred to as a ‘disabled’ toilet).
So, for example, if a new building has a single bank of male and female toilets on the Ground Floor there must be a unisex accessible toilet at the same location. If a 10-storey building has banks of toilets on every level then there has to be an accessible unisex toilet on every level.
This rule does not apply in buildings where there are several banks of toilets on each level as can be the case, for example, in sports stadiums or theatres. In this situation, only 50% of the banks of toilet have to include a unisex accessible toilet.
There are many detailed technical standards that apply to the design and construction of accessible unisex toilets. These are aimed at ensuring the greatest possible number of wheelchair users can independently use toilets. In broad terms, however, a new accessible unisex toilet must have:
- a doorway entry that is at least 850 mm wide;
- enough space inside for wheelchair users to turn and get to the pan and sink (at least 1900 mm wide x 2300 mm long);
- grab-rails to the side and behind the pan;
- a backrest to the pan;
- no furniture, storage boxes or other things in the toilet facility; and
- fixtures, such as soap and paper towel dispensers or coat hooks, at a height that can be easily reached by someone using a wheelchair and away from corners so they are easy to get to
Figure 13: shows a good example of the grab-rails, backrest and location of the toilet roll holder
Figure 14: shows a toilet supposed to be a unisex accessible toilet, but with the grab-rail upside down, no backrest or rear grab-rail, and, to make it even worse, it is being used as a storage room
Accessible unisex toilets are specifically designed to allow wheelchair users to transfer from their wheelchair onto the pan from the front or the side so one side of the pan must be clear of walls or obstructions.
Many people who use a walking frame or crutches, are unsteady on their feet, or perhaps have arthritis or difficulty walking, benefit from a toilet cubicle with grab-rails on both sides rather than an accessible unisex toilet, so for new buildings there is now a requirement for what is called ‘ambulant accessible toilet cubicles.
If, for example, an office or workplace has an accessible unisex toilet as well as separate male and female toilets, at least one of the cubicles in the male and female blocks of toilets must be an ambulant accessible cubicle.
An ambulant accessible cubicle must:
- have grab-rails on both sides;
- be between 900 mm and 920 mm wide so that a person can reach both grab-rails; and
- have a clear space in front of the pan or at least 900 mm that the door does not swing into.
Figure 15: shows the basic layout of an ambulant accessible cubicle
Figure 16: shows an ambulant accessible toilet
All new buildings must provide equal access for people with disability. If a new building does not provide this, those responsible for the building could be subject to a discrimination complaint. If you see a new building that does not have good access you could also ask your local council to look into why it doesn’t.