FAQ: The RADAR accessible toilet key

What is a RADAR Key? [updated March 2018]

The RADAR key Company have manufactured the vast majority of keys many know as RADAR keys over the past 25 years. They are needed to open a large number (10,000 plus) of accessible toilets in the UK which are part of the National Key Scheme (NKS).

History of the key

RADAR is an organisation that no longer exists – it became part of a new company Disability Rights UK (DRUK). They started the National Key Scheme in the UK.

The RADAR Key Company no longer supply keys to DRUK but continue to make the keys for the National Key Scheme and improve on them.

What toilets do they open?

The keys open toilets fitted with the RADAR National Key Scheme (NKS) locks. Toilets fitted with these are for the use of disabled people and are found all over the country (e.g. pubs, restaurants, leisure venues, tourist places, shopping centres, stations, airports etc).

What types are there?

There are two types – one with a small head and one with a very large head for people with grip or dexterity difficulties. Both used to be silver with the word RADAR Key embossed on them fit into an NKS door lock or NKS padlock . The door locks often look like this:RADAR_lock

Keys now look like this:

A new solid brass key.

They are long handled to bypass vandal protection blocks built into doors.

Who can have one?

Any individual with an impairment / medical condition who needs access to these larger toilets or hygiene facilities or needs facilities to assist mobility or navigation (such as hand rails, lower basin, contrasting colours, different toilet height or seat arrangement, changing table, hoist for example).

One downside is that you do not need proof of need to purchase one so parents and non disabled people can abuse the scheme.

Where do I buy a genuine key from?

You can buy brass (improved) genuine (tested and guaranteed to work) keys from the makers of the original key :


price £2.50

Other sellers of ‘genuine’ keys include this one from Disability Rights UK (4.50). [personally I prefer the improved brass one as opposed to a love heart blue key that is rather stigmatising. Some may prefer it if they want it to stand out and know they have it in their bag].

I have seen them for sale elsewhere – do they work?

Fake RADAR Key Fake RADAR Key

There are hundreds of places claiming to sell ‘genuine’ keys including many prominent charities and mobility shops. Most have a red handle and are mass produced in China. I strongly advise against these keys.

One of the reasons for making a new brass key is to avoid people being ripped of by fakes that may be so rough cut and out of shape that they don’t easily open toilets, if at all. Keys may not be tested by a master locksmith or damage locks.

Tom Gordan from their sales team told me:

“Disabled people need genuine Radar keys because they are dependent on them to open what is often the sole toilet which they can use. 
Genuine keys genuinely work all the locks because they have extra machining processes and are more reliably cut and also more accurately cut.
Each one is tested on a radar toilet lock (not the padlocks which are a more basic mechanism) by a master locksmith to guarantee that a disabled person does not suffer.
Identification of genuine keys is easy – if it says “radar” and ‘NKS’ on it, it is a genuine radar key. If it doesn’t then it is an inferior copy.
Including postage, the majority of the dodgy keys are sold for more than genuine ones direct from us at the RADAR Key Company, so the confusion leads to those copies creating both awkward situations and extra cost.”

How do I find a toilet?

A free App is available for Changing Places toilets and coming soon will be one for other accessible toilets. This is available for Android and Apple phones and on the web.

A booklet for regional locations is available on the DRUK website costing £3.50. However, it will cost you £70 to purchase all regions!! I’d download a free App to find their locations made by the RADAR Key Company!

The majority of toilets use the scheme so it’s probably best to just follow signs to toilets/accessible toilets as anyone would do.

Why are accessible toilets often locked with these in the UK?

Many places choose to install NKS locks on their toilets to keep them clean and reduce the chance of them being abused by people who don’t need to use them, vandalised or used for drugs, sexual activity or a wide range of other things!

Support this project to continue to provide information through membership or donating some sparkle (that’s like coffee but more creative!)


  1. Tom Gordon says:

    The newest blue RADAR toilet locks have handed handles. If the wrong hand was ordered and rearranged to fit on the door then that might stop the bolting action working correctly.

    The plastic blue keys sadly have historic rights to use the term RADAR on them, but are not as reliable or cheap as the keys which Disability Rights UK sell and which The RADAR Key Company have sold to them (and most other organisations) for over 20 years.

    1. Tom Gordon says:

      The RADAR Key Company have launched an upgrade to the old steel keys and now sell direct the new Gold Standard, solid brass, RADAR keys instead, in both large headed and small headed versions at http://www.radarkey.org.
      They are THE most reliable RADAR key and are much easier for disabled people to hold and turn, plus for the first time don’t look and feel like a disability product, but are sold at a price which often undercuts even the awful, colourful, Chinese keys.

      We will be exhibiting at Naidex for the first time next month, if you would like to have a chat and see the beautiful new keys.

      Our updated Changing-Places-Toilet-Finder website and phone apps (Apple and Android) are free from http://www.loo.org
      Ours was the very first one, has 200 more toilets than the British Toilet Association have on theirs, more accurately described and with a more intuitive design of programme.

      A similar free website for accessible toilets will follow, so the 5 year old sheets from Disability Rights UK will then be able to be binned.

      1. Tom Gordon says:

        The RADAR Key Company’s updated Changing Places Toilet finder website is now multilingual and has different pins to indicate which toilets are to the full/partial standard (and will be very soon on their phone apps too. ) https://www.loo.org/apps

  2. Could someone confirm the operation. Radar key opens the door, close the door behind you and lift the handle up. This then locks the door, which cannot be opend by another radar key. This is the question I need answering. Is it suposed to be this way. When the door is locked and the red disc shows, you can’t access/open the door with another radar key. The only way is to use a coin in the slot in the middle of the lock.
    I think our accessible toilet at work is broken as you can enter by using the raday key even when it is locked from the inside.

    1. Hi, yes the key opens the door and lifting the handle prevents other key users from gaining entry. To mark the toilet as ‘in use’ a red patch is displayed. Generally, handle up, red patch shows, toilet is secure. Emergency entry is using a coin in the slot. It sounds like your toilet mechanism is broken – although they are pretty vandal proof and rather hard to break! The newer models are Satin Stainless Steel (Grade 316) and better quality than the older type.

      1. Tom Gordon says:

        The stainless steel locks and handles are infact inferior Chinese copies, as are the red plastic handled keys.
        The correct action of the lock is that when the inside lever is raised, then the external key wont work until a screwdriver turns the exterior slot back, or the internal handle is pushed down again.
        The lock is probably malfunctioning because it was damaged or wrongly fitted. We can supply genuine spare handles.

      2. Chinese copies strike again :-/ Any news on whether the locks / keys will change to try and prevent this sort of thing?

      3. P sto says:

        We have now installed 2 genuine radar locks and found the the key works from outside even when the handle has been lifted. Our client is now complaining and we are taking it up with supplier.

  3. carl says:

    Can anyone tell my if Merseyrail use this lock?

    1. A quick search shows they do use a RADAR Key – but you’d need to search your specific station which will tell you in the access statement.

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