Disability Discrimination Act – Access To Goods And Services

Making Access to Goods and Services Easier for Disabled Customers: A Practical Guide for Small Businesses and Other Service Providers

Customer toilets

For some service providers, such as small shops, the issue of providing toilets does not arise – customers do not expect to have access to a toilet. But where customers may be on the premises for some time (e.g. a hairdressing salon, beauty parlour or solicitor’s office) or where toilets would normally be provided (e.g. a restaurant, cafe or bar) you should consider how accessible the toilets are – both in terms of getting to and using the facilities.

If there is sufficient space available, a toilet compartment might be modified to full wheelchair-accessible standards. This may be achieved in a variety of ways, such as fitting out an existing compartment which is already big enough, knocking two compartments into one to create enough space or moving a toilet from an inaccessible location to an accessible location (see Designing for Accessibility listed under Publications). You will need technical advice on creating a wheelchair-accessible toilet compartment, as the layout, dimensions and positioning of fittings are all critical.

The following checklist suggests other improvements that can be made to toilets (even without creating full wheelchair access) that will benefit many other disabled customers.

Practical suggestions:

  • Fitting grabrails: appropriately positioned grabrails can be of great benefit to customers with limited movement, balance or grip.
  • Better lighting: improving lighting in toilets will benefit everyone, particularly those customers with visual impairments.
  • Use of colour: customers with visual impairments may find “all-white” areas difficult to orientate themselves in and to identify fittings such as basins and the toilet itself. Making fixtures and fittings stand out more easily through use of contrasting colour makes toilet compartments and washroom areas much easier to use for these and other customers.
  • Floor surfaces: for safety reasons, could you change shiny or slippery floor surfaces to non-slip surfaces? This will benefit all customers, particularly those with visual or mobility impairments.
  • Outward-opening doors: particularly in small toilet compartments, if the door can be changed so as to open outwards, this can greatly improve manoeuvring space within the compartment, and make all the difference between some customers being able to use the toilet or not. It is also better from a safety point of view to have an outward-opening door that can be opened in an emergency without being obstructed by anyone or anything inside the toilet compartment.
  • Avoiding shiny ceramic tiles and floors: these can cause reflection and glare which may be visually confusing – could you replace them with less shiny tiles, perhaps when undertaking a refurbishment or redecoration?
  • Clearer signing to toilets including pictorial symbols is beneficial to all customers, particularly those with visual impairments or learning difficulties.
  • Providing information on nearest accessible toilet facilities: if it is not reasonable to provide a wheelchair-accessible toilet for your customers, it may be possible to arrange with a neighbouring business where there is an accessible toilet for your customers to use it. Alternatively, you may be able to help your disabled customers by letting them know where the nearest accessible public toilet is.
  • Management: ensure that supplies of toilet tissue and paper towels are regularly replenished and that toilets are not used as storage areas and are kept free of obstructions.
  • Maintaining alarms: ensure that alarm systems in toilets are regularly checked. Pull-cord alarms should be capable of being activated from floor level. It is important that staff are familiar with any alarm systems.
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