'No where to go' is a collaborative project between researchers from across the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University and Carers Northumberland.
They examined the difficulties disabled people and their carers experienced accessing appropriate accessible toilets in the region. An important focus, drawing from the expertise of disabled people their carers, and organizations that support them, was to identify practical areas where improvements could be made.
* Disabled people adn carers in Northumberland limit the places they go to and their participation in local activities due to a lack of suitable toilets. This is a major health and well being issue and reduces opportunities to be full participants in society. making it difficult or even impossible for people to leave their homes and participate in social life fundamentally reduces their rights as citizens.
* In Northumberland their are major limitations in the availability of toilets and even more problems in the provision of accessible toilets. This creates serious problems for people who need to go urgently , for example those with a stoma or Cohn,'s disease. If people are not sure if they will be able to find and use an appropriate toilet then stay at home.
* Social attitudes create barriers to people being able to use the toilets that are appropriate to their needs. In particular, their is a lack of awareness of 'hidden' disabilities, such as bowel and continence problems, dementia or autism. people highlighted occasion where they received public abuse fro using accessible toilets when others didn't recognize they had a right to use them.
* There is also considerable stigma associated with incontinence and disability. Talking about toilets and toilet needs can be uncomfortable for many; this creates problems when it restricts people' opportunities to ask about toilets or gain the information they need.
* Accessibility is about much more than wheelchair access. There are a variety of ways that toilets can be made more accessible to people with a range of different needs. For example, poor signage and lighting in many facilities make it difficult for people who are visually impaired, have dementia or a learning difficulty. Signs are often too small an unclear. It is important a more inclusive approach to accessibility is developed. This does not need to be expensive. Practical things like colour contrasts between walls, door and light switches make a real difference.
* Cleanliness is very important to people, but can be more of a challenge fro people with different needs. For example, people with a visual impairment described their discomfort being able to smell, but unable to see a toilet. many people with a stoma need to kneel on the floor to empty their stoma bag. Wet, dirty floors cause considerable distress.
* More changing places toilets are needed, particularly in the north of the county. being able to use a Changing places toilet can be life changing for people with complex needs and their carers. Without the hoists and changing beds available in these fully accessible toilets, many parents and carers are forces to change adults and older children on the floor.
* There is a lack of easily accessible and reliable information about the accessibility and availability of toilet provision across the region. Due to the lack and variability of information , people onl;y go to places where they feel confident about the facilities available to them.
* The region does have a community toilet scheme where organizations, such as cafes and shops, make their toilets available to people without them having to purchase anything or pay to use the facilities. However, people are unaware of the scheme, although many think the idea is a good one. If more organizations sign up to the scheme and look at making some practical changes to ensuring their facilities are more accessible, this could be transformative.
1. Recommendations for public and customer toilet providers, including local authorities, supermarkets, leisure centre, shops and cafes.
* Easy, low cost improvements to existing toilet facilities can make them more accessible for disabled people and their carers.
*Things that make a difference include: providing large , clear signs into adn out of toilets; keeping toilets clean and tidy; ensuring that simple fixtures and fittings( e.g. a shelf and hooks) are provided; checking that grab rails adn other accessibility aids are fitted correctly; providing good lighting and using contrasting colours; and installing easy to use washing and drying equipment.
* Putting information about toilets on a shop or cafe website, including information on the size of the toilet, its facilities and photographs, makes it much easier for people to know whether they would be able to use the facilities. It also makes people feel that they are welcome and confident they can contact the business to ask further questions.
* Raising awareness of 'hidden' disabilities through staff training can help to ensure that people feel comfortable and are treated with dignity when they need to access toilets in unfamiliar places.
* Joining the national 'Use our Loos' scheme, or a local community toilets scheme, can increase the number of toilets available locally. For those people who need to use the toilet more often, or more urgently, knowing they can use a toilet without having to ask, reduces anxiety.
* In new buildings and refurbishments, new toilets can be designed to go beyond the requirements of British Standards and building regulations so that they meet the needs of as many people as possible. It may also be possible to install a Changing Places toilet.
2. Recommendations for local authorities
* Working with partners in the public, voluntary and commercial sectors, local authorities should develop local toilets strategies that weill support improved access to toilets in their areas.
* Reviewing the condition of existing local authority facilities and gathering information about other public and customer toilets in an area provides a useful benchmark fro future decision making.
* Agreeing on simple strategic goals and how to assess progress over time can promote stakeholder confidence and make it easier to deliver the strategy. Key goals might include: improving the quality of existing toilets; filling gaps where there is limited or no access to appropriate toilets; and raising awareness of the importance of accessible toilets.
* Setting up a successful community toilets scheme and/or working with the national 'Use your Loos' scheme can enhance provision in an area. The best community toilets schemes require some investment so that local authorities can provide advice and support for scheme members.
* Providing detailed information on local toilets on a dedicated, easy to find and frequently updated web page can help both locals and visitors.
* Linking a local toilets strategy to other local strategies, including local development planning and health and social care, can help to ensure that public and private investment in an area improves toilet provision in the medium and long term. this might include, for example, requiring changing places toilets in large new buildings.
3. Recommendations for national government
* A national online map that show public and community toilets, which is kept up to date and provides detailed information, would make it much easier for people with disabilities to plan trips anywhere in teh country. This would require substantial investment to ensure the level n of accuracy and detail that is needed fro people to be able to use confidently.
* Requiring all local authorities to develop local toilets strategies( as the welsh Government has done and as a house of Commons Committee recommended in 2008)would help to improve toilet provision across the country as well as promoting the collection and pooling of information.
* Increasing the number of Changing Places toilets, for example, by providing funding and requiring large new buildings to include them, would help to remove a significant barrier to social inclusion for more that 250,000 people and their carers.
Resources produced by the project
https://research.ncl.ac.uk/nowheretogo includes a range of resources we have produced with with our partners to support change.