May anyone use a toilet designated accessible?

| 24/04/2017

When it comes to toilets for the disabled, should they get the same treatment as disabled parking spots? My wife (Canadian) thinks so; I (British) think not. It seems to me that they are marked as disabled to indicate the wider space, handrails, etc, not that they should sit empty until a disabled person heeds the call of nature. What’s the correct answer? And do I run the risk that The Blue Spot will take a photo of me coming out if I do?

Auntie’s answer: This situation does not seem to be as straightforward as when an able-bodied person illegally uses a designated parking spot for the disabled. On the legal side, a Department of Environmental Health official explained that there is no specific legislation that restricts the use of these toilets to disabled people, only a planning requirement to provide accessible facilities. There might be an emergency need, as it were, for an able-bodied person to access these toilets, but overall, people “should always be cognizant of their designation”.

It seems we need to take more of a common-sense approach to this scenario than in the misuse of parking spots. I asked Chelsea Rivers, a tireless advocate for people with disabilities, to weigh in on this question.

“Personally, I think that the time a person takes in a bathroom is much quicker than that needed for a parking spot, so I don’t tend to view it as a restricted space,” she said.

Noting the larger size of these facilities, she added, “It’s most useful when you are travelling with children, as you can both fit in there comfortably — in fact I think that they double as a ‘family restroom’ in some places.”

While I take great issue with drivers who blatantly misuse a disabled spot, it does not bother me if I see an able-bodied person walking out of a disabled toilet, and Ms Rivers feels similarly, saying, “I think this may be a grey area and personally don’t think society is as strict or unforgiving of able-bodied users on this one.”

I am by no means suggesting anyone disregard that wheelchair symbol on the door, and you should definitely let a disabled person ahead of you if the only toilet available is an accessible one. But if there isn’t anyone else waiting and the disabled toilet is the only one free, in my opinion, it is OK for you to use it.


Category: Accessibility Questions, Ask Auntie

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    When you got to go, you got to go and if the disabled toilet is the only one available, Sorry, but I’m using it!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What is “the loo”? I thought the question was about toilets.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A business that says it has an accessible loo that’s not actually accessible.
    *Doors blocked
    *Doors too heavy to open
    *Doors that are constructed such that one cannot open them fully and manoeuvre awheelchair at the same time.
    *Hallways that are blocked by chairs/boxes/miscellaneous storage crap.
    *Stalls that aren’t big enough for one to manoeuvre out of the way of the door to shut it.
    *Stalls that include things like change tables that take away any or all manoeuvre room.
    *Stalls with broken doors.
    *Stalls used as storage spaces.
    *Mirrors, soap dispensers etc that cannot be used from a wheelchair.
    *And my personal favourite the fully functional amazing accessible stall, that you access via a set of stairs.
    *The list goes on and on and on.
    Not to mention a complete lack of adult-sized change tables for disabled adults who require someone to change them while they are out.
    AND baby change tables that work for disabled parents.
    Neither of which I have ever seen in any accessible toilet.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think that this one is easy – if a disabled person needs to use the loo, they have priority for the designated stall (“front of the line access” as it were). Otherwise, it’s up for grabs just like the others. I agree with Ms Rivers – no one is going to be in there long, so even if a disabled person has to wait, it will be a short one.