A research team were granted £50,000 to study whether terms to describe public toilets were accessible. They’ve released their findings.

A research team from Sheffield Hallam University were awarded nearly £50,000 in June last year, from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to research the way public toilets are designed, “in an effort to assess if they are fit for purpose for the UK’s diverse 21st Century society.”


The paper , which was published last month, points out that school toilets are one of the first places where children learn that “disabled and queer bodies are out of place”.

The research is now complete and they managed to find some interesting ways of ensuring that people don’t feel left out or marginalised when using public facilities. The 7000-word report outlines how some respondents thought that changing the male/female icon with a description of the room’s content could be more helpful.

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Education and Disability Studies researcher Dr Jenny Slater wrote,

” A suggestion from participants was to write on the toilet door the contents of the toilet cubicle, e.g. toilets with urinals, toilets without urinals, larger toilet with grab bars.

“Participants thought it was important for others to not judge people’s choice of toilet, but to allow people to use whichever space was accessible for them (‘accessible’ being used in the broadest sense of the word).

“This would mean critically considering the signage on toilet doors in order to understand how toilets do not just illustrate categorisation by gender, disability (and historically, race), but also actively produce such categories.”

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