This blog post is in response to a brief discussion about the use of RADAR key operated public WCs on my Twitter feed recently. This followed on from me tweeting a newspaper report about someone visiting a shopping centre and not being aware that a RADAR key was required so that she could use the public toilet.
For the uninitiated, a RADAR key / lock has been used to secure many accessible public WCs for disabled people to prevent vandalism or abuse of the facilities across Britain.
The RADAR key costs about £4.00 (incl P&P) from Disability Rights UK (formerly RADAR) and is a fairly chunky piece of metal to add to your keyring. This gives you access to about 9000 locked designated accessible WCs. You might also need to purchase the guide £12.99 (incl P&P) to find these WC's, or obtain the app for your smart phone £4.99 (from iphone app store) in order to help track down their locations. When ordering you have to indicate why you need the key: (We only sell the Radar NKS Key to people who require use of the toilet facilities due to their disability or health condition. Please tick the box in the check out area.) I'm not sure how they check if this box ticking is true.
From the point-of-view of some users, the locking of accessible WCs is a complete no-no - and I can definitely see where they're coming from. "Open the damn things up" was the response from one person.
Clearly there is also the issue of unfairness and embarrassment. WC's for non-disabled people are usually not locked. Nor do non-disabled people have to ask the manager for a key in order to use the facilities!
Conversely, I can also see why it does help to prevent abuse, particularly in unstaffed - or hidden from view - public locations.
But what about shopping centres (with security staff), hotels, attractions, museums and pubs? Is this 'key overkill' - or is it correct that these WC's should also be locked until required by a disabled person?
As an indication of this, a recent visit to three museums in Bath identified that they had removed all of the RADAR locks on their public accessible WC's. Was this perhaps because of negative feedback from disabled visitors?
I'd be interested in your own personal thoughts, experiences and opinions so I can pass these on to decision makers in the tourism and leisure industry when they're making alterations to public facilities.