The Need for a Community Toilets Scheme (Part 3)

In our final article, Gaynor Sadlo looks at the public toilet provision in Eastbourne and presents some tried and tested solutions in other areas of the UK.

Public Toilet Provision in Eastbourne

There are about 73 public toilets in Eastbourne, according to the Access Guide. 17 of them are classified as disabled toilets – 5 at the seafront, 9 in town, 1 in Hamden Park and 1 in Langney, 1 at the harbour, 1 in the Arndale centre, 1 in Old Town. It seems that as a community we could improve on this situation?

Some common problems with public toilets in general

  • They are often in out-of-the-way places as if they need to be hidg historically underground, or in more inexpensive real estate areas because these are needed for more commercial activities.
  • Inaccessible, with many stairs, or too small, owith poor door-closing mechanisms.
  • They are often closed, and/or need money/to use.
  • Those for disabled people are often poorly designed, not following the recommended guidelines.
  • Not well maintained, or cleaned enough, or not maintained well externally. It has been shown that better outside appearance gives confidence.

Some tried and tested Solutions

Increased Public Awareness of the relationship between good toilet provision and health. eg November 19 2013 is World Toilet Day

Better positioning and design, numbers and sizes of signs, maps, nearby parking. Australian Toilet Map on-line has 100,000 visitors per month. Could develop smartphone apps for local toilets. The Great British Public Toilet Map, London and about 30 other councils provide data for this internet-based guide. “SAT LAV” at Westminster was launched in 2007 people can text for the nearest toilet, including community toilets, for 25 pence.

Community Toilet Schemes where businesses are paid by the local authority to allow the public to use their toilets. Libraries and council buildings also take part in these schemes.

Direct Access Toilets where toilets open directly to the street without a communal vestibule; they include their own hand-washing facilities inside, and each can accommodate various needs, such as unisex, disabled access.

Automatic Public Toilets are popular with local authorities as they may prevent anti-social behaviour. But many people are ‘scared’ to use them as they are so mechanistic.

Accessible toilets – for people with disabilities especially those using a wheelchair, those who need a carer, or others who require more space, such as families. More of these should be built in with regular toilets to reduce the pressure on disabled loos. Age-friendly cubicles include slightly wider, handrails on either side, easier locks, toilet paper dispenser for one hand, flush systems not set in, coat and bag hooks, shelf.

Changing Places Campaign – to increase he toilet provision for people with profound and multiple disabilities who need special facilities and the support from carers. Bigger rooms and adult-size changing plinths.

The RADAR key scheme has now a million keys in use in the UK – costs £5 but there are unofficial manufacturers too – with its own maps (cost £12) and an App.

Competitions for the best public toilets eg British Toilet Association Innovation Awards.

Conclusion

The perception of freedom to go to the toilet when away from home could be seen as a basic right and yet many people still do not enjoy that right in Eastbourne. Many improvements have been made to toilet provision for all, over the last twenty years and yet many enhancements are yet required before everyone might relax about being able to find a suitable toilet when going out. Local businesses and the economic health of Eastbourne might be enhanced if the public toilet provision became a focus until we can be sure it is as toilet friendly as we can make it, for all needs. Hotels could pave the way in re-evaluating their ordinary and disabled toilet provision, and invite the public in to use them. Toilets in hospitals and care homes also could be given more attention (eg in mental health care facilities there are usually no toilets for wheelchair users).

Dare we hope that Eastbourne could place such emphasis on a project to enhance our public accessible toilet provision that we become known as an outstanding town in that regard, reflecting respect and the ethos of welcoming all people, revealing an understanding of their possible toilet needs. Eastbourne, from civic and business perspectives could become known for its priority for providing very attractive toilets for all, enhancing its prosperity. Public toilets can increase opportunities for business growth for retailers and other enterprises (Dept for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform 2008). Japan has paved the way in becoming known for its priority of providing enjoyable toilet experiences, including music, warmth, and soft seats!

As an aside, the future of the WC may however be time-limited, and technology should be applied more to this domain. Could local businesses become interested in this possibility? Hands-free toilets invented for the luxury market, which include self-cleaning Clos-o-mats, could be placed in more wheelchair-accessible toilets to avoid the need for carers to help with cleaning. That alone may enhance people’s experience of visiting the town. We can learn from Space toilet management, for those who are incontinent. Meanwhile the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a convention in 2012 in the race to develop a water-free toilet system that can improve sanitation for the majority of the world’s citizens, who currently do not have access to any toilet. Soon then, as water management becomes ever more expensive, the sustainable micro-wave toilet, where one product of elimination provides the energy for the micro-wave management of the next, may soon be with us!

This article is taken from a paper written by Gaynor Sadlo, one of Inclusive Eastbourne’s Directors, as part of Inclusive Eastbourne’s Community Toilets project.  You can read the entire paper by downloading a copy in PDF here.

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