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Out of Order: The problem with public toilets for older people

Many public toilets in the UK are unhygienic, inaccessible or closed down, making it more difficult for older people to venture out and worsening social isolation.

The research focused on the needs of two groups: members of the public and providers of publicly accessible toilets. Nearly 100 people were interviewed about their experiences of finding and using public toilets, from parents of newborns to people aged over 90. Four user profiles were created from this research to communicate user needs. Twenty providers of toilet facilities, from local authorities to shopping centres and train stations, participated in the research. Alongside the main study, a second strand of research looked at misuse and crime prevention in relation to toilet provision.

The project has produced two major outputs. The first is a citizen-driven website named the Great British Public Toilet Map that aims to encourage local authorities to improve access, including details about availability and opening times. It also aims to involve local communities in decisions that affect their public toilets. The second is a publication, an Inclusive Design Guide to Publicly Accessible Toilets, containing case studies and outlining location-specific problems and potential solutions.

Gail is working with Research Fellow Jo-Anne Bichard

Research Associate 2011:
Gail Knight
RCA Department: 
Innovation Design Engineering
Research Partners:
New Dynamics of Ageing, ESRC and TACT3