Accessible Public Toilets

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2019 National Disabled Members' Conference
8 July 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that less than 10% of people who meet the Equality Act 2010 definition of a disability actually use a wheelchair which is the traditional symbol for an accessible toilet.

For a range of reasons many disabled people face barriers to using a standard toilet.

Conference notes that Council spending cuts have led to the closure of many public toilets across the country and some rural locations, such as the Isle of Arran in Scotland, have no facilities at all.

In the UK the National Key Scheme allows people access to locked public toilets for the purchase price of a RADAR [Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation] key on proof of disability. This has been in operation since 1981, however, while over 9,000 premises are listed as participating in the scheme there are many more places that do not.

There are schemes, such as the ‘Nice Toilets’ that have been implemented in cities across Germany and Switzerland. In this scheme the Council pays a monthly fee to participating cafes and restaurants who open their toilets to the public to use freely without requiring to make a purchase. It has been operational for over 15 years and has saved significant sums of money, e.g. in Bremen the provision of Council run public toilets was estimated to cost €1.1 million but instead costs €150,000; a seventh of the cost (equivalent to £987k and £134k respectively). The scheme has been so successful that Bremen now has the best ratio of public toilets to residents across Germany.

Conference welcomes the recent introduction of “Some Disabilities are Invisible” signs in workplaces and other public buildings across the UK. This signage recognises that people with non-apparent illnesses have disabilities and long-term health conditions that are not physically obvious, leading to disabled people experiencing stigma or abuse. Research by Crohn’s and Colitis UK has revealed that 61% of those affected by the condition have experienced verbal or physical abuse simply for using an accessible toilet.

For others, even a standard accessible toilet does not meet their needs as they require even greater space or additional equipment not otherwise provided. The Changing Places Campaign notes this affects about a quarter of a million people across the UK who are reliant on more specialist public toilet provision. This number is growing due to positive health care advances increasing the need for more Changing Places toilets. However, uptake in providing these is slow and there is no mandatory requirement for them to be provided in public places.

Conference recognises that Changing Places toilets should be provided in addition to standard accessible toilets and that our public services should not only be providing these but could also be encouraging large organisations or venues to similar, e.g. through building regulations, so that they become more commonplace across airports, railway stations, shopping centres, etc.

Conference calls on the National Disabled Members Committee to promote inclusive communities for disabled people through greater provision of accessible toilets for all disabled people by:

1)Encouraging branches to press for toilet signage that reflects hidden/non-apparent disabilities in their workplaces.

2)Publicising and promoting greater participation in the National Key Scheme.

3)Exploring via Labour Link the benefits of the Nice Toilets scheme with a view campaigning for the development of a similar scheme across our towns and cities.

4)Publicising and promoting the Changing Places Campaign, and campaigning via Labour Link for Changing Places toilets to be a mandatory requirement under building regulations for large public places in devolved nations.

5)To consider submitting this as a motion to the 2020 UNISON Local Government Conference.

Scottish Disabled Members’ Committee