As part of the Eastbourne Community Toilets Scheme project, Gaynor Sadlo, one of the company’s Directors, wrote a paper on the need for a community toilets scheme in the town. This is the first in a series of three articles where we’ll share with you the different topics covered in her paper, beginning with a summary of some of the national, international and local research that confirms the importance of accessibility to public toilets. You can read the entire paper by downloading a copy in PDF here.
The importance of access to toilets when away from home: some research evidence
Good provision enhances quality of life for all. When it comes to using toilets away from home, the negative consequences of lack of a toilet when needed are often experienced by people who have special needs. This can profoundly affect citizens’ desire to leave their home, leading to social isolation and reduced participation (Case-Smith 2004). Unfortunately, socio-cultural factors often prevent a wider dialogue about toilet needs and provision because it remains quite a taboo subject, but the reduced participation in society by those who have to worry about finding an accessible toilet is an unacceptable social injustice.
Because many activities that actually support health and wellbeing – such as going to the theatre – take place outside people’s homes, insufficient publicly accessible toilets can be seen as costly in terms of reduced long-term physical health and mental well-being. Publicly accessible toilets is the preferred term to use to refer to all toilets that the public can access without having to buy anything (Knight & Bichard 2011).
With understanding of the link between health and toilet access comes a responsibility for each community to scrutinise their provision of publicly accessible toilets. One-hundred and fifty years after the first public toilet in the UK, “the provision of state-of-the-art public toilets which was once seen as a matter of civic pride has instead been the focus of increasing public concern” (Baroness Andrews, Dept for Communities and Local Govt, 2008). There is a new wave of identifying innovative methods to address the current shortage of good toilets, especially by getting more organisations to get involved and willing to share their existing conveniences with the community.
Inclusive Eastbourne takes this as a very important issue which can enhance life for all in Eastbourne and which can support businesses and other organisations to maximise their opportunities through increased visitors and community involvement.