Whilst not a legal guide, information is provided here, and in our Access guides, to help you assess if your toilet provision is meeting the required standards and your Equality Act duties. Only a court can decide if you have failed to prevent or caused disability discrimination. Similarly, toilets which do not comply with health and safety will be subject to further actions and investigation from relevant safety bodies.
The Equality Act 2010
In the UK, the Equality Act protects the rights of all disabled people, as individuals – which includes sanitary facilities that are provided.
Facilities being offered must provide equal access to toilets for disabled customers / visitors and employees, to the same standard as non-disabled people. This means meeting their Equality Act 2010 obligations. Public bodies such as councils, schools and hospitals have additional duties under human rights law and the Equality Act.
The Equality Act does not recognise ‘minimum standards’. An individual disabled person or carer could argue that there has been no ‘reasonable adjustments’, as required by law, as it relates to them. Also, what is ‘reasonable’ changes over time and adjustment is an ongoing obligation.Approved Document M
A business should pay close attention to how ‘reasonable’ is judged in courts and described in the Equality Act.
Many businesses underestimate the extent of their duty to make adjustments and do what is reasonable in all of the circumstances. Citing ‘too expensive’ or ‘disruptive’ without evidence of a thorough assessment and providing strong reasoning would be unwise.
Businesses must take positive steps to remove barriers to disabled people and make reasonable adjustments. They must think ahead and plan to remove barriers – not wait until a person has had difficulties or feels they have been discriminated against.
Listen to the experiences of disabled people and if a problem has occurred take reasonable action to prevent discrimination from re-occurring in a timely manner – the ongoing obligations of the Act.
If someone doesn’t cooperate with their duty to make adjustments, the Equality Act says it’s unlawful discrimination.
The duty to make reasonable adjustment, imposed by the Equality Act 2010, means that provisions beyond that in Approved Document M [AD M] of the building regulations are likely to be required to anticipate the needs of a range of disabled people so they have equal toilet access.
You may have to upgrade your toilets now rather then wait for a ‘refit’ or new toilet block to be built.
Reasonable adjustments may include:
- Gaining a thorough understanding of the needs of a range of different people and understanding particular needs e.g. asking “what do we need to do specifically for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties” as opposed to ‘what facilities do disabled people need’ or ‘what is the minimum standard we have to meet’.
- Auditing toilet facilities thoroughly – not just against minimum standards.
- Consulting with disabled staff, customers or other organisations to ensure facilities meet a wide range of people with different hygiene needs.
- Making physical adjustments / building new toilets.
- Providing Changing Places toilets or hiring a mobile unit
- Publishing access statements about toilet facilities.
- Making people aware of the type of facilities you have (e.g. widths of doors, heights of toilets, layout of grab rails, type of lighting etc).
What do the building regulations say?
Although the guidance in this Approved Document, if followed, tends to demonstrate compliance with Part M of the Building Regulations, this does not necessarily equate to compliance with the obligations and duties set out in the EA [Equality Act].
This is because service providers and employers are required by the EA to make reasonable adjustment to any physical feature which might put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person.
In some instances this will include designing features or making reasonable adjustments to features which are outside the scope of Approved Document M. It remains for the persons undertaking building works to consider if further provision, beyond that described in Approved Document M, is appropriate.Approved Document M, 2013
How do I upgrade my existing toilets?
To provide good facilities the following types of venues (but not inclusively) should be looking at 1 or more Changing Place toilets alongside provision of toilets that meet the latest building regulations (October 2015) – these have diagrams of exactly how to fit out a toilet, what size it should be etc for maximum accessibility.
If toilet facilities are not meeting the needs of individual disabled people, organisations must change things to make sure there is suitable toilet provision. Not having useable toilet facilities would be a major barrier to using / visiting , or working for an organisation.
Having no usable toilet facilities is also highly likely to prevent substantial income generation from disabled people and their families because they would be unable to visit, or visit for the same length of time as non-disabled people might.