Tap operating instructions

Broken tap in a ladies' washroom

Broken tap in a ladies' washroom

Scientist Dorothy Bishop is known for her work in childhood language disorders, but often blogs about all sorts of other issues. Her post about The Bewildering Bathroom Challenge reminded me of my collection of photographs of broken taps in public washrooms. Dorothy's piece is specifically about taps in hotel bathrooms, but I have found that the more 'designed' any tap is, the more likely it is to be broken, because people really struggle to work out how to operate them. Dorothy quotes from a website that's no longer available and not named, but was presumably a designer or manufacturer of taps:

A lot of attention in the design world is focused on creating products that are intuitive and easy to use, but sometimes a little ambiguity can be a good thing. Designed for use in restaurant and hotel bathrooms these taps embrace ambiguity to create a sense of intrigue to provide a more engaging interaction.
— Original source unknown, quoted from deevybee.blogspot.co.uk

I expect that these 'intriguing' taps frustrated rather than delighted restaurant and hotel visitors. This page (University of Cambridge Inclusive Design Toolkit) shows that approximately 5% of the UK population could be excluded by tasks that require dexterity. Good, inclusive tap design is possible, so why exclude and frustrate your customers, staff, or clients by specifying 'intriguing' taps?

On how to use a tap, a particular type of tap, that you may not have encountered before. But don't worry, help is at hand on extension 4219.

On how to use a tap, a particular type of tap, that you may not have encountered before. But don't worry, help is at hand on extension 4219.

Note the knob-type tap controls below, which are not allowed for sanitary conveniences under Part M of the Building Regulations. This photograph is of a tap in a staff kitchenette, and while taps are not specifically mentioned in clause 4.16 of the Approved Document, 4.16a requires that "All users have access to all parts of the facility".

Any bath or washbasin tap is either controlled automatically, or is capable of being operated with a closed fist, e.g. by lever action.
— Approved Dcoument M, 2013.
Taps should not need instruction notices!

Taps should not need instruction notices!

Separate, wall-mounted hand dryers are installed in the rail station washroom where this picture below was taken. Concealed hand dryers are a neat idea, but are counterproductive if customers cannot find them. I wonder whether the integral soap dispensers are too difficult to refill, or whether they are broken due to misuse?

"The soap dispensers are not working and in order to provide soap we are temporarily having the soap in gallons on the top of the sinks. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

"The soap dispensers are not working and in order to provide soap we are temporarily having the soap in gallons on the top of the sinks. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

Next month I'm off to the Bath Room in Clerkenwell, so watch this space for some good examples.