Tom Gordon, who has a background as a master locksmith, produces RADAR keys for accessible loos and has developed an app to find your nearest Changing Places. Here, he speaks to UCan2 editor Victoria Galligan about why the UK falls short when it comes to Changing Places…
What are the different types of accessible toilets and what is the difference between them? (Changing Places, disabled access, Space2Change etc)
Disabled Toilets are correctly called “Accessible toilets” but not all accessible toilets are the same. Changing Place toilets have been designed for use by people who have a carer and include a full-size changing bench, a hoist and a peninsular toilet. Changing Places “U” toilets and Space2Change toilets are similar but don’t have all the features of the full Changing Places standard.
Changing Places are NOT normally available for independent disabled people who can use a standard accessible toilet.
How many of the accessible toilets do we have in the UK?
There are 20,000-30,000 accessible toilets and 1,400 Changing Places in the UK, but there are never enough – partially because many councils are saving money. A dozen more are being built every month. Wales is particularly short of facilities.
Which accessible toilets are locked, and do radar keys open all locked loos?
There is no standard which demands public accessible loos are locked with a RADAR lock but the vast majority do use them, if they are locked. It all depends on the toilet provider –some have a local key or a code or an intercom or a card. Some you have to pay for entry. Our phone apps tell you how to get in to each loo at www.loo.org
Eire and Europe and Australia all have their own National Key Scheme key –links from www.loo.org
How much are the keys and what makes your keys a quality product?
We have discontinued the steel keys which we supplied to RADAR for 25 years (until the charity shut down). They all still work all the locks but our new solid brass keys are improved in three main ways:
• The unique raised rim to the head gives much better grip.
• The computerised keycutting and other manufacturing and design improvements give a more reliable key, but we still have a master locksmith check every single key on two RADAR door locks (not the simpler mechanism of the padlock) to ensure that when a disabled person is outside the only toilet nearby which is suitable for them, they can reliably get inside.
• It looks pretty, which is not irrelevant – why should a disabled person be forced to have an ugly product?
They only cost £2.50 plus postage and discounts are available for bulk orders too! from www.radarkey.org
Tell us about your app…
Our fully checked app Changing Places Toilet Finder – which also includes Spaces to Change – are up and running. You can get the links from www.loo.org. We will be doing apps for UK public toilets and accessible toilets too.
The website has the same data as the phone apps but the larger screen and power etc means that we can add extra features compared to the app.
They all show where 1,400 Changing Places are, who can use them, opening hours, how to get there, how to find the toilet once you are there, how to get in and if it doesn’t comply with the full CP specifications, how it falls short. It even tells you the time of the next train or bus to get there.
Why do you offer free signage for accessible loos?
It seems to be a universal problem that public toilets are not well signed, so which means it can be:
• Difficult to identify them, even when you are nearby.
• Not clear who is meant to use each type of toilet.
• Not clear what key etc is needed.
• Difficult to find out about other toilets.
• A mystery who to report faults to.
Our FREE A4 door signs for all UK accessible toilets (not just ones with a RADAR lock) cover everything that a user needs to know, in an individually laser cut, nationally standardized format of sign.
As we do business with most of the toilet providers, it was easy for us to contact the right people to get the necessary information and then use our existing skills and technology to solve this problem.