Often when planning a toilet facility or bathroom cubicles, accessibility is seen primarily as affecting those in wheelchairs. However, the issue of access is far more complicated and there are many groups of users who may be affected, some with very complicated needs indeed. The Changing Places Campaign, calling for more fully accessible toilets in public places in Ireland, describes the need for facilities such a ceiling track hoist system, a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench, a privacy screen, a centrally located toilet with adequate space on both sides for the user and two assistants, a wide paper roll, a large waste disposal bin and a washbasin. Clearly, not all buildings open to the public will be able to comply with this level of provision (the charity is aware of only seven in Ireland) but it should be borne in mind that disability can include issues such as adult incontinence.
Wheel-chair users require larger than standard bathroom cubicles (the Building Regulations specify minimum dimensions) as well as an outward-opening door and appropriate grab-handles. Attention also needs to be paid to the room to manoeuvre needed outside the cubicle, and at the entrance to the washroom. (A larger cubicle is also helpful to people who are able to walk but need assistance from a companion, those who need help with dressing, and to parents assisting small children.
‘Ambulant disabled’ is a term used to describe people with a wide range of disabilities who are not regular wheelchair users; examples might include people living with diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
The needs of people who can walk, but nevertheless may require special provision in toilet facilities, are covered by the Irish Building Regulations Section 1.4. These regulations make clear that cubicles for ambulant disabled people should be larger than normal (the width of the cubicle should be between 800 mm and 900 mm), and grab handles should be provided.