We’ve begun planning the bathrooms. It’s complex! Just a few of the questions we need to answer:

  1. Separate options for men and women or unisex?
  2. How many fully accessible toilets on each floor, bearing in mind they are much larger than normal loos?
  3. How many changing places do we need and where should they be located?
  4. Tiny toilets for the little children? Tiny sinks to match?
  5. Sinks inside the cubicles or outside?
  6. Indian style or Western?

The first thing, obviously, is to ask the team. The majority preferred single-sex bathrooms for staff and parents, so that answered Q1.

How many should be accessible is a maths question. Not my specialty, but we’ll figure it out. The beauty of an accessible loo is that – obviously – it works for everyone, so even if we get the math a bit wrong, there’ll be no harm done.

Changing-places (CP) raise interesting questions. These are essential for adults who use diapers and without them, their lives are severely limited.

Accessible changing place image has a toilet, sink and adjustable long bed, full-length mirror and a hoist

For many disabled adults or incontinent seniors, the lack of CP facilities means they can’t travel more than a few miles from home. Intrepid souls who want to get out and about regardless may have to suffer the indignity of being helped to change while lying on newspapers spread out on a filthy bathroom floor. Ideally, then, just for the awareness value, such bathrooms should be on the ground floor of our building. But that’s where the smallest children will have their classes, and for them, the standard dropdown tables one sees in Family Toilets all over the world are sufficient. We will have at least two in the building, but still mulling over their exact locations.

For the tiny toilets/tiny sinks, we talked to the people who will be helping/training the children and young adults to use the bathrooms. They loved the idea!

Tiny toilet with a child-size sink beside it.

What’s the logic? Many children hate sitting on adult-size toilets. They’re so afraid they are going to fall in that they can’t relax enough to use it. Having to be lifted onto the seat and then have their feet dangling midair isn’t the kind of independence good toilet training should provide. And if a child also has physical disabilities or isn’t able to sit on their own, the problem is worse. As for child-level sinks, if helping children develop self-reliance is a goal (and it is) adapting the environment so that self-reliance is possible is crucial for success. What’s the point of expecting children to wash their hands if they can’t reach the taps to turn them on? Handwashing happens many times each day: when the kids come inside from playing; before eating; after using the toilet; after a painting activity – multiply that by a dozen children and you can understand why teachers are such fans of self-reliance.

Anyway, you get the point. This level of detailed planning is needed for every aspect of our building because it’s not only a place that has to work. It also has to inspire.


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