Where's the toilet?


We all know that some aspects of a journey can be difficult. Some can be uncomfortable. Some might just tip the balance and stop us travelling altogether. So, what would stop you taking a journey? What’s your travel dealbreaker?

Cost? Large crowds? Difficult connections?

How about access to a toilet?

Many people have told us that lack of access to appropriate toilets, their accessibility and design as well as poor signage (to find them AND to get out out!) can all present barriers to travel. If we can’t be sure that we can get to a toilet somewhere along our journey, we might think twice about setting out in the first place.  

Let's face it, going to the toilet is a universal human need but it's private so we rarely talk about the need for public toilets in debates about social inclusion. However, without access to toilets that meet our needs, many other efforts to promote social inclusion are likely to struggle to make an impact.

And if you're wanting to find a public toilet, the chances are you're on a journey, even if it's just a local one.

So I’m delighted that Go Upstream is going to be part of a research project looking into toilet provision on journeys, aiming to come up with some useful ideas for service providers to move toilet design and provision up the list of priorities. We just had our first planning meeting and it was a room full of expertise! The team includes:

Professor Heather Wilkinson, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research on the Experience of Dementia (ECRED).

Jenny Miller, Chief Executive of PAMIS (who support people living with multiple, complex disabilities) and champion for Changing Places toilets.

Mary Marshall, senior consultant at Dementia Centre, Hammond Care UK, Honorary Chair at ECRED, expert in designing for dementia and author of Toilet Talk

Agnes Houston who will bring her expertise, experience and energy, representing the Scottish Dementia Alumni.

But the wider team will include people with a range of disabilities, including people with dementia, working with us as co-researchers, gathering real-life examples of the challenges faced on journeys across Scotland and determining the top priorities and potential solutions for designing inclusive, accessible, and findable toilets. We’re hoping it will provide an opportunity to present a strong, united voice and a consensus on the common challenges, needs and priorities shared by people with different disabilities. Maybe we can develop a collective, creative way to work with service providers and equipment manufacturers.

The project is supported by a grant from Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) and in their press release, Dr Sally Witcher, Chief Executive Officer at Inclusion Scotland, said:

“We are delighted to see the important issue of toilets and transport join Scotland’s
fantastic portfolio of DRILL funded projects. Access to toilets is obviously a basic
requirement for anyone wishing to travel and is something that most people just
take for granted. However, the impact of not having access to toilets has a major
impact on disabled people’s freedom of movement and their ability to achieve
independent living. With decision-making, participation in public life, Self-Directed
Support, housing, autism and now toilet access as themes, DRILL continues to
support disabled people in Scotland to lead high quality research into the issues
which matter to us most.”

We’re planning our first gathering of people to design and begin the data gathering phase and we’ll talk more about that when it’s underway.

In the meantime, next time you’re on a journey and looking for a toilet en-route, consider how inclusive the experience is. Better still, share your story.