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Concerns over TfL’s double-locked toilets

Blog by Chris Stapleton. This blog and its content reflect the views of the author only.

I’m a wheelchair user and I am often urgently appreciative of the wheelchair-accessible toilets available in London.

Most accessible toilets can be unlocked by using a so-called RADAR key. RADAR is a nationwide scheme to give a standard means of access to all wheelchair-friendly toilets.

TfL’s transport network has a lot of accessible toilets, almost all of them accessible using a RADAR key. You can find a map of them here:

This should be a cause for rejoicing. Unfortunately TfL’s policy with regard to these toilets is not a cause for rejoicing. At almost every tube, train or bus station where I have tried to use my RADAR key, I have found that the toilet door has another lock on it, in addition to the RADAR key lock. In most cases I’ve been unable to get into the toilet because the door is double-locked using this additional lock.

Sometimes there is a sign on the toilet telling people to find a member of station staff to obtain access to the toilet. At White City Bus Station, for example, there is a sign telling people to contact the staff in the adjacent information booth. I have never, on my many visits there, found any staff in this information booth, and I have never been able to get access to the toilet there, because it has always been double locked, with no one around to open it up for me.

At North Greenwich Station, the toilet is similarly double-locked, with no sign on the door offering advice on how to gain access. I had to hunt in vain for a long time to find any station staff - they are all based downstairs. I then discovered that they don’t have they key and I had to approach the bus station staff outside.

This sort of scenario is repeated at Canary Wharf, and at nearly every other TfL-managed accessible toilet I have visited.

When Transport for All sends complaints to TfL about this situation, TfL says that the toilets are double-locked whenever the station manager leaves the office to patrol the station. This seems to me to be a flimsy excuse, and does not tally with my experience – I have found toilets double locked while station managers are busy in their offices.

It’s a disgraceful situation. Many disabled people require urgent access to toilet facilities. TfL is acting in a discriminatory manner by making accessible toilets unavailable.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability. Is TfL acting unlawfully in making accessible toilets unavailable to disabled people for long periods of each day? TfL are not offering a toilet service to disabled people on the same basis as to everyone else, so I believe that they are acting unlawfully.

Transport for All has raised many complaints with TfL about this subject, and nothing has changed. If you come across an ‘accessible’ toilet which is double-locked and which you cannot gain access to, please do contact Transport for All, who will take up your complaint and raise it with TfL.