Are Disabled Washrooms A Legal Requirement?
Providing washrooms for staff and customers, whether you’re a restaurant, call centre or golf club means taking into account those users who may have a disability. It actually goes one step further than that, as you need to preempt the potential disabilities of future visitors and employees. Failure to provide accessible washrooms not only limits some users from using or working at your business but can also be seen as discrimination to disabled users.
Your duty as an employer
The Equality Act came into force in October 2010 to stop disadvantages and discrimination. As well as removing physical barriers, Equality law recognises that in order to provide equal opportunities to disabled people, the way in which your employment is structured may need to change. As an employer, you are expected to make reasonable adjustments in order to ensure a disabled worker has the same access to everything that is involved in doing and keeping a job as a non-disabled person.
New build properties and Document-M
In new build properties, Document-M of Building Regulations needs to be adhered to. This means that disabled people, particularly those who use a wheelchair need to be able to have access and move freely through the building. This naturally includes washrooms, requiring an outward opening door, a specific internal dimension of the room to provide ample manoeuvring space, grab rails and lever operated mixer taps at the washbasin.
Generally, Document-M of Building Regulations doesn’t always apply when adding an extension to a building, but this needs to be cross-checked with the local authority.
Modernisation of existing facilities
In existing premises, you are still expected to do the best that is physically possible. In some cases, this might mean an ambulant disabled washroom, though this should not be confused with a full disabled washroom as this is not accessible for wheelchair users.
The letter of the law does not state that you need to offer disabled washrooms, but as part of the Equality Act, you would be wise to comply with the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. Of course, some old buildings can be incredibly difficult to adjust in order to make them fully accessible, which is why the advice is to do the best you can. It’s about allowing your users to use the washrooms with dignity.
Changing Places is an initiative to provide washrooms that can be independently accessed by a wide range of users. As well as a full disabled access toilet and grab rails, these rooms also feature a hoist as well as a full-size changing table. There is now a vast national network of these facilities and companies like Tesco are rolling them out across the UK.
If you would like more information on disabled washrooms, and to work out what the right way forward is for your organisation, please get in touch with one of the team on 01202 650900.