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Blog: Fixing Up Accessible Toilets On Campus

Using the toilet is pretty straightforward, except when you have a disability.

Accessible toilets exist to enable disabled people to use the facilities easily, which is made possible by adjusting the space, flooring, lighting and the type of equipment to adapt to the user’s needs. For example, accessible toilets are usually more spacious than regular toilets to allow easy access for wheelchair-users.

Recently, I have been made aware of students’ concerns around the red emergency cords which are a common fixture in accessible toilets – I’ve seen photos of these cords tied up or downright broken. These red cords are meant to hang freely to the floor unobstructed to allow any disabled user to request for help if they fall unexpectedly and were unable to get up without further assistance. 

I am thankful for our keen-eyed students on campus who alerted me to their concerns, as I reached out to the College’s Director of Estates to address this issue. 

On 5 June, the College’s Estates department carried out a full audit of all accessible toilets on campus, reporting that a number of accessible toilets on campus had non-compliant red emergency cords. This included the toilets in McCrea, Williams, Bourne, Boilerhouse, Founders East, Windsor and Arts buildings.

As a direct result of the audit, the Estates department has since remedied the red emergency cords to comply with health and safety regulations. All issues were remedied by 18 June, with the majority completed within three days of the initial audit. We are grateful to the Estates department for listening to students’ concerns and their dedication to upholding health and safety standards on campus.

It’s important to recognise that for many of us, the red emergency cord may be a simple piece of string dangling from the ceiling. But for many others, it’s a critical lifeline. In the future, please support the disabled community on campus by untying any red emergency cords if you see they are not hanging freely onto the floor in accessible toilets.

If you see any potential health and safety issues, please email me and I will reach out to the Estates department on your behalf. As always, I am happy to answer any questions via email or Facebook, where you can also get in touch with Chris Keane, our Disabled Students’ Representative.