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Difficulty using accessible toilet


My name is Julie ...I'm new here. I have cerebral palsy. My balance is very poor.

I'm having difficulty using the accessible toilet in my local church in Dorset because the adjustable bar no longer rests in the upright position. I use the bar in this position to help me with standing up and sitting down.

A sign has been put up requesting that the bar be kept in the horizontal position as this meets someone else's needs . However, as far as I understand, the bar can put vertically or horizontally according to each individual person's needs. Am I right in my thinking? Also, I have never seen a sign in another public disabled toilet (e.g. in a theatre or  shopping centre) saying that the bar must be kept horizontal. Is this sort of sign appropriate?

When I initially challenged this, the point was made that I am physically capable of moving the bar from the horizontal to the vertical position and vice versa. This is true. However, when I lifted the bar into the vertical position last Sunday (4th Nov), it just fell straight back down again…it no longer rests in the vertical position at all. When the bar fell down, it fell into me which was painful and knocked me off balance…which I found frightening and thought was very dangerous.

Once I had recovered, I tried to hold the bar upwards with my own strength whilst trying to use the toilet but I found I couldn’t. I’m not strong enough and I almost fell again.

The point has also been made that it is undignified for the other person to always have to ask for the bar to be put in the horizontal position. However, I don’t want to have to ask someone to stand in the toilet with me holding adjustable bar in the vertical position whilst I use the toilet. To me, this would be very undignified and it also takes away my independence.

We are surely both entitled to use the toilet in a way that suits our individual needs? I would like to work positively with my church to resolve this situation. I think it is hard if you aren’t disabled to fully understand disability and access needs. Do you have any advice or documentation that I can share with my church to help address and resolve this issue?

Thanks very much for reading and any help/advice you can give.


  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,544 Disability Gamechanger
    There are no hard and fast rules on this but there’s no justification for an additional sign and an accessible toilet is for all not one. Both of you are allowed your dignity but that isn’t achieved by prioritising one over another and both of you have impairments which mean in reality someone else needs to move the bar. The only actual solution is that one or both of you needs that assistance from another person. Both of you may feel that impacts your independence but I don’t see any other practical solution other than to get into a likely stressful spat over it.

    Your description of events suggests there may be a repair to the bar needed also but my experience is that the lightness and ease of movement is how they’re intended to work.
  • Jean_OTJean_OT Member Posts: 528 Pioneering
    Hi @JC2018

    Thanks for posting on the community.

    Folding toilet support rails come in two types:.
    *One type has a catch to fix them in the vertical position, the catch then has to be manipulated to allow the rail to be lowered. These rails can be difficult for some people to operate but they can provide support in either the vertical or horizontal position.

    * The other type has no catch and is only intended to provide support in the horizontal position. The should not be relied on  to provide support in the vertical position as there is nothing stopping them moving.  I assume that this is the type of bar we are talking about in this instance.

    If so, in most instances the ‘hinge’ is a bolt which is adjustable so that the amount of force needed to move the bar between vertical and horizontal can be changed. However, the bar should certainly be stable enough when stored in the vertical position that it won’t accidentally fall into the horizontal position if nudged or touched. Having the bar so that it can fall is potentially very dangerous and should be urgently addressed.

    I agree that the toilet facilities should be set up in such a way as to meet the needs of as many people as possible. If the other user is unable to move the bar from the vertical position to the horizontal position independently and all other people using the toilet can, I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask other users of the facilities to place it in the horizontal position before they leave. However the bar should be made safe so that it will not fall unexpectedly from the vertical if others need to store it in that position whilst they are attending to their own needs.

    I also totally agree that your needs to have a secure vertical bar should to be addressed. Either by replacing the current bar by one designed to be safely used to bear weight in both the horizonal and vertical positions or alternatively (and probably also cheaper and easier ) investing in a fixed vertical bar to go next to the adjustable one, this is a solution that is used fairly commonly in well designed public toilets, see photos: 


    Hope this helps, Best wishes


    Jean Merrilees BSc MRCOT

    You can read more of my posts at: https://community.scope.org.uk/categories/ask-an-occupational-therapist

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