The users of any washroom facility will vary, and toilet cubicles must be designed to accommodate the widest possible range of needs, regardless of age, size, ability or disability; remembering that usage of the facility may vary over time, and in many locations can include staff, residents, and visitors as well as users and their families.
Whilst the legislation specifies a minimum level of provision for those with restricted mobility, the design should also take into account the needs of those with various kinds of sensory impairment, and also, most importantly, the requirements of families including parents with babies and small children.
Parents with Children
A frequent subject for discussion amongst mothers on internet forums is the lack of provision for buggies and prams in public toilets. ‘You can tell most architects are men’ is a common complaint. A larger cubicle can in some instances serve a double function for wheelchair users and the parents of toddlers.
Nappy-changing facilities are a useful feature where room exists to provide them. You don’t need a large amount of space to be able to offer baby changing facilities in a washroom; a drop-down baby-changer can be installed in the communal space of a washroom, for example on the wall by the wash basins; equally, there may be space for a fold-down mat in a disabled-access cubicle.
Particularly in locations with regular footfall by family groups, such as shopping centres and cafeterias, a baby-changing facility can play an important part in helping the enterprise to be seen as attractively ‘family-friendly’.
In a recent study by the charity Age UK, an interviewee expressed concern at the availability of user-friendly toilets: “If those facilities are there, customers go back again and again. But there aren’t that many around, so your choice gets limited to going out for a couple of hours or not going out at all.” The extra facilities described could be as simple as clear signage and a little more space.