World Toilet Day - Who knew that this is a ‘thing’?
In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated November 19 as World Toilet Day.
World Toilet Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners. The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone everywhere has access to toilets by 2030. This makes sanitation a global development priority.
There is a website, dedicated to highlighting the unsanitary and unhygienic conditions that too many people in poorer nations of the world have to endure (www.worldtoiletday.info).
While this is a just and deserving cause, I’d like to bring this a bit closer to home.
What I have experienced
I recently had two toilet related misadventures while on a night out in Auckland CBD (two in one night - how unlucky is that?). The first time, it took over 15 minutes for an eatery and entertainment complex to locate a key for the locked accessible toilet. Some nights, that would have been 14 minutes too long. All was good though, until later in the evening, at a different venue, I was shown to their toilets. There was no grab rail on the back of the door, only a grab rail on the wall side of the toilet, but worse still, the toilet was so low that I struggled to stand up. In the end, I had to phone my husband for help. I can’t tell you how tight that squeeze was! After an email to, and phone call from, the establishment’s manager, it was determined that the usher that fateful evening sent me to the ‘wrong’ toilets. The other, newer toilets were far more suitable for me. I was assured that all staff will be briefed to direct patrons who ask for an accessible toilet to be directed to the newer facilities. We also discussed that alterations such as a grab rail to close the door behind you easily, and the addition of a drop down grab rail on the other side of the toilet, should, and would, be done. I emailed on the day of writing this blog, and all the rails have been ordered, and are currently being fabricated to fit the doors. All 5 accessibility toilets which require these rails are receiving them, and I will be sent a photo once all are fitted. (Thank you so much Auckland Live.)
What I have found
There is a New Zealand code to which disability toilets in NZ must adhere to when being built. This includes space regulations, the positioning of grab rails, minimum height of toilet pan etc. Organisations comply with the requirements for accessible toilets by following the recommendations in Building Code Clause “G1/AS1 Acceptable solutions” (part of the New Zealand Building Code) and New Zealand standard NZS 4121:2001 (Design for Access and Mobility: Buildings and Associated Facilities).
Unfortunately, those recommendations for accessible toilets do not actually meet the needs of all users. I, for one, often struggle with space limitations in a standard accessible cubicle. My wheelchair, service dog, and space for the actual transfer is a huge squeeze, but add a caregiver into the mix (an occasional necessity), and it all becomes impossible. Then there is another group of people who have different needs. Have you ever considered the people who require a hoist to get out their wheelchair for a toilet stop (or hygiene visit, comfort break), those who require a changing bed (and are too big or heavy for a baby change station), those who have incontinence issues and may require more than ‘just a toilet’ (a shower, for example). No, most people haven’t considered them, but we are here.
In New Zealand, there is currently one truly accessible public toilet for the whole country. It is located in Hamilton Gardens, and, led by Jen Hooper, in collaboration and partnership with Hamilton Council, was opened 12th March 2018. Changing Places NZ - more on this in another blog.