Readers, I need your help so pay close attention...

Niall Strawson

Niall Strawson

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

You guys have all heard of crowd- sourcing, right? Wikipedia describes it as: ‘Crowd-sourcing is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people’. I have decided to put you, my dedicated readers, to work in a pseudo crowd-sourcing exercise.

In my capacity as accessibility adviser for the University of Oxford I have to audit buildings for accessibility and this my friends is what I would like you the public to do. You don’t need to do a comprehensive audit just one small task as you go about town or visit a cafe or restaurant.

I seem to spend a large proportion of my life discussing disabled loos. I have yet to find the perfect one, although of course we at the university do have some near-perfect ones.

One of the issues I often find is a problem with orange cords. These are the emergency alarm cords that you pull if you get into trouble in the loo. Generally, trouble means falling over. When I need to use the loo I tend to transfer. This means lifting myself out of my wheelchair and onto the toilet in question.

I’m pretty skilled as I have to do it every day and it’s the same technique for getting in and out of bed, the car, etc. As with everything accidents will happen, and it is precisely these moments where you need the cord for someone to come and help you back into your chair. In order for this process to go with the minimal amount of fuss the cord should reach the floor and have two easily grabable plastic rings or triangles (one at loo height and one at floor) to get some grip in order to pull.

It is somewhere between rare and never that I have seen the perfect cord.

This might all sound a bit extreme but when you fall off your chair you are left marooned and the chance that you fall perfectly within reach of the cord is low. The experience that is sadly not rare is for the cord to be tied up out of the way. It’s a bit like, why bother? And trust me if someone does fall and can’t reach the cord you will be in big trouble if they hurt themselves…it’s the law.

So are you ready as my team of crowd- sourced auditors? I’m sure most of you work in a building that has a disabled loo, or visit supermarkets and cafes frequently. Just pop your head in to the loo, have a look for the cord and check it is long enough with the two rings. They often stop at loo height which is useless when I am sprawled on the floor.

Have a quiet word with the manager and just tell them it needs be as I described. They probably didn’t even know or notice. It might also get them thinking about wider access issues too, which is no bad thing.

Thanks in advance.

email: disabledspace@oxfordmail.co.uk

Comments (2)

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10:50am Wed 6 Aug 14

xenarthra says...

You make a good point, which I - as an able-bodied person - hadn't given much thought to before. I'll go and check my employer's disabled loo.

However, you went and spoilt your article a bit by trying to scare people with "you will be in big trouble if they hurt themselves…it’s the law". May I suggest that you will get better results in changing people's behaviour by using a carrot approach rather than a stick approach?

In any case, as I understand it, current Building Regulations require a cord to have one handle at 800-1000mm above the floor and another 100mm above the floor. So your statement that one handle should be on the floor is not strictly correct. A handle on the floor would seem to present a serious hygiene risk. This may seem rather a pedantic point, but if you're threatening people with legal action, you had better get your facts right first.

Anyway, thanks again for flagging this up as an issue.
You make a good point, which I - as an able-bodied person - hadn't given much thought to before. I'll go and check my employer's disabled loo. However, you went and spoilt your article a bit by trying to scare people with "you will be in big trouble if they hurt themselves…it’s the law". May I suggest that you will get better results in changing people's behaviour by using a carrot approach rather than a stick approach? In any case, as I understand it, current Building Regulations require a cord to have one handle at 800-1000mm above the floor and another 100mm above the floor. So your statement that one handle should be on the floor is not strictly correct. A handle on the floor would seem to present a serious hygiene risk. This may seem rather a pedantic point, but if you're threatening people with legal action, you had better get your facts right first. Anyway, thanks again for flagging this up as an issue. xenarthra
  • Score: -1

11:21am Wed 6 Aug 14

xenarthra says...

The cord in our disabled toilet had been hooked around a bar (presumably by a cleaner). I have freed it, and adjusted the red handles to the correct heights.
The cord in our disabled toilet had been hooked around a bar (presumably by a cleaner). I have freed it, and adjusted the red handles to the correct heights. xenarthra
  • Score: 1

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