What is Doc M... & why it's essential to be informed ?
Many supposedly accessible toilets neither comply with the guidance in Doc M, nor do they meet British Standard BS 8300-2009. Some are just difficult to use but some are actually quite dangerous.
As an able-bodied person, it may be difficult to appreciate exactly why some of the features provided in an accessible toilet are required and how important their positioning is.
Here we provide an explanation of some of the issues to give you an idea why Doc M is so important.
To fully understand the importance of the requirements, you must put yourself in the position of a disabled person and consider the following points…
Why is a standard height toilet pan unsuitable?
The seat of a standard wheelchair is approximately 480mm above floor level. Standard toilet pans are around 430mm to the top of the seat. It may be possible to slide off the wheelchair and drop onto the toilet seat. Getting back onto the wheelchair is a different matter. Even with good upper body strength, it is practically impossible for most people to raise themselves up by around 50mm and across by 600mm using arm strength alone. The likelihood is that, having reached the toilet, you will be fully committed to using it so you go ahead and transfer from your wheelchair to the WC. You are then faced with a couple of possibilities, neither of them attractive.
- You can pull the alarm cord for assistance (assuming there is one and you can reach it) and hope that there is someone monitoring the alarm.
- You want to be independent and don’t want to cause a fuss so you try to transfer back to your wheelchair. So you pluck up the courage, try to launch yourself from the toilet seat across onto your wheelchair and only make it half way. You and your wheelchair topple over near the far wall where there is no alarm. What happens next? One can only imagine.
Why does the basin need to be so near the WC?
Some disabled people need to wash their hands first before rearranging their clothing and transferring back to their wheelchair. To find out for yourself how important the position of the basin is, whilst sitting on a chair, lift your legs off the ground, stretch your arms out in front of you and see how far you can reach forward without losing your balance. You will find it is not very far.
It is also important to note the correct positioning of a basin with the tap fitted on the corner nearest the WC. This helps people who may need to rinse out a bottle or container which would be impossible if the tap was centralised.
Why does the flush handle need to be on the side nearest the transfer space?
The flush lever should be on the open side of the cistern (not on the wall side). You should be able to flush it using a hand, an elbow, or any other part of the body. Some people do it with their chin. If it is not on the open side, it will be impossible to reach from a wheelchair.
Why is the type of rail important?
The fold down rail should be easy to pull down and push up from a seated position. The rails used should contrast with the surrounding walls to assist those with visual impairments.
When you look at the reasons behind the regulations, it all becomes obvious. Imagine the difference you could make to someone’s life by installing a Doc M compliant toilet or shower facility correctly and showing an understanding of the need for the product to your customer. Would you want to face a non-compliant disabled toilet?