Washrooms

A cistern full of Chanel No. 5

Gold tap at the Bath Room in Clerkenwell.

Gold tap at the Bath Room in Clerkenwell.

I dream of massive, pristine convenience. Brilliant gold taps, virginal white marble, a seat carved from ebony, a cistern full of Chanel No. 5, and a flunky handing me pieces of raw silk toilet roll. But under the circumstances I’ll settle for anywhere.
— Renton in Trainspotting

The Inclusive Hotels Network is a group of inclusion-minded hotel operators, product designers and retailers, access consultants and architects who meet once a month to share knowledge and experience of designing, building, managing and staying in hotels. We're putting our heads together to develop best practice guidance about the subject. Anyone with an interest is welcome to join, and you can find out more here: Inclusive Hotels Network.

This month our meeting was hosted by the Bath Room, which is an oasis of baths, bidets, basins and loos, and some rather fancy taps. Rather like Renton, but for different reasons, many people would happily 'settle for anywhere' when they need to spend a penny, provided that they can use it. Knowing that there's a properly accessible unisex accessible facility at a venue or place of interest can be critical to a person's decision to visit it. If your restaurant / creche / hotel has one then let people know about it!

Basin display in the Bath Room.

Basin display in the Bath Room.

The Bath Room is a showroom and information centre for designers and architects, with plenty of accessible products as well as the tap above. We heard from the Bath Room's experts in hotel and education design about how they are developing accessible washroom and hotel guest room solutions with aesthetic appeal as well as functionality and regulatory compliance. This is especially important in hotel guest rooms: why should the accessible bathroom look any less lovely than those in other suites? Raw silk toilet roll is perhaps a step too far, but if the guest experience is luxury then it should be just as luxurious in the accessible rooms. Concept Freedom by Ideal Standard may well have Chanel No. 5 in the Cisterns.

And before you judge anyone coming out of an accessible loo who doesn't look like they have a disability, have a read of this by Sam Cleasby.

Accessible loo at the Bath Room in Clerkenwell.

Accessible loo at the Bath Room in Clerkenwell.

The gold tap at the top of this post is not accessible but would be if it were operated with lever handles.

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.