Disability Today’s Article – Community Loo Campaign

This month’s article has been writtem by Gaynor Sadlo of Inclusive Eastbourne.


Community Loo Campaign

Have you ever been ‘caught short’ needing a toilet when out and about?  This is a common experience for everyone at times but it’s a fact that concern about finding a suitable loo may put some of us off going out at all.  Eastbourne has about 73 public toilets serving more than 100,000 people – that’s about 1,370 people for each public WC (and that’s not counting our nearly 5 million annual visitors!)  A serious issue is that only 17 public toilets are suitable for people who have mobility issues or depend on a wheelchair – when Eastbourne has about 20,000 people living with disabilities.  This can present a major obstacle to people trying new things, a problem that relates to the theme of this year’s Disabled Access Day at the Beacon on Saturday 16th March.


Eastbourne Access Group and the community interest company Inclusive Eastbourne has been trying to improve this situation for some years, and they will be there at The Beacon on Disabled Access Day.  Inclusive Eastbourne will be asking visitors about their experience of Eastbourne’s public toilets, as they need to understand the local situation more deeply.  It’s important to campaign so that there are as many toilets available to the public as possible all around Eastbourne. One solution is the “Community Toilet Scheme” where businesses who have customer toilets are encouraged to welcome people who are not customers at that time, to use their toilets. This increases footfall and possible future business, as it shows a company’s positive attitude and community spirit.  We all know how a nice loo impresses us about a company.


More accessible toilets are directly related to community health according to the Bladder and Bowel Foundation.  Increased awareness of our need to drink more water (many of us don’t drink enough water) relates to the need for more toilets too.  In the UK 100,000 people each year suffer Acute Kidney Injury through dehydration – this kills more people per year than cancer, and costs the NHS up to £620 million per year.


Because many activities that actually support health and wellbeing take place outside people’s homes, insufficient community toilets is costly in terms of reduced long-term physical health and mental well-being.  Help the Aged found that nationally, 80% of older people find it difficult to find a public toilet, which can lead to social isolation and reduced participation, major causes of health decline as reported in the Herald recently.


The negative consequences of lack of toilets are experienced even more by people who have special needs, and one in five of us experience toilet ‘issues’ such as frequency, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and a need to go in a hurry.  Parents with children can face a similar situation.


Joining the Community Toilet Scheme involves agreeing to let the public use toilets in their time of need.  A small sign is placed on the outside of premises.  There is no need to be concerned that there will be a sudden ‘rush’ of requests.  The perception of more freedom to go to the toilet when away from home is the central issue, and should be seen as a basic right.


On a positive note, Eastbourne should be proud that there are now two “Changing Places” toilets in the town, one in The Beacon, the other on the middle promenade by the bandstand and we are soon to get another in the refurbished Congress Theatre.  These toilets are designed for people who need a bigger space, an adult sized bench and hoist.


Another positive action people can do is send for a “You Just Can’t Wait” card from the Bladder and Bowel Community – these can be shown to premises with customer toilets to ask if they will let you use their premises immediately.


Written by Gaynor Sadlow.