Posts tagged ‘Inclusive Design’
The Great British Public Toilet Map launched last Wednesday 19th November on World Toilet Day*
Previous versions of the map have existed since 2011, but this is now the largest publicly accessible toilet database in the UK by some way. It has over 9500 toilets, and I’d be confident of saying that the map will help you to find toilets no matter where you live.
If for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t, you can add, edit and remove toilets until it does! We’ve had over 1000 toilets added this week.
There are also a tiny minority of locations where the data has gone a bit loopy with duplicate loos or inaccurate locations. Don’t be shy about removing those that you think are wrong, or telling us at firstname.lastname@example.org about parts of the country that may need a little attention. You’ll be doing us a huge favour.
*As well as World Toilet Day, it was also GIS Day (Geographic Information System). They might as well name it Toilet Map Day.
We learnt quickly in our research project that any new idea that we had to improve public toilets had already been done, somewhere, by someone, to various degrees of success, whether it was a crowd-sourced toilet app, a new toilet roll holder or a customer feedback system…
… thius is why our Inclusive Design Guide to Publicly Accessible Toilets (pdf) contains lots of real, one-off examples from the Toilets of Britain, with very few of our own design concepts. One of my favourites was at Walsall Art Gallery which solved the age-old ergonomic issue of how to design sinks for both children and adults by providing… A Step-Stool.
Although there’s something wrong with pretty much every public toilet, it’s not that hard to get it right from a product design perspective.
It’s basically the same as for a toilet in a home – a loo, a sink, paper, soap, bin and a lockable door.
Yet for every lovely example of a new design that does something right (Dyson Hand-Dryers are such a huge improvement..) there’s a new design that does something wrong.
For 2 years I’ve been researching ways to improve public toilets for older people, as part of the TACT3 project to help older people to manage continence concerns.
This soon became an inclusive design project to improve all publicly accessible toilet provision for people of all ages.
Rather than going down the ‘traditional’ product design route, I took a service design approach – applying the research, process and creativity of a designer to the design of a service.
I did this because:
- It interests me
- there’s no money for redesigning toilets
- Toilets have been redesigned, but people don’t follow the guidance
- Suggesting improvement to a service can have a wider impact, and needn’t cost much at all
- It’s relevant to the biggest providers – local government
- It seemed like the right thing to do
2 things came out of the project: a website called The Great British Public Toilet Map, and a publication called Publicly Accessible Toilets: An Inclusive Design Guide, which was actually funded by the ESRC Connected Communities programme as part of our 6-month concurrent research project called RATs – Robust Accessible Toilets – looking at conflicts between ‘Design out Crime’ guidance and Inclusive Design.
“I’m starting to think that, actually, we don’t need more public toilets…”
This was the guilty whisper of one toilet expert of my acquaintance during another of our
obsessive rants research meetings.
For years (decades in fact), organisations have been counting and objecting to the decline in public toilets. 10% decline over this period… 20% down over another… etc.
However the overall numbers don’t tell the real story.
For one thing, the term ‘public toilets’ doesn’t take into consideration shopping centre toilets, department store toilets, supermarket toilets, train station toilets, etc…
Yet all of these Not So Public Toilets are available, to varying degrees, for the public to use, be it at the discretion of the private-manager.
Public toilets sprang to life in the Victorian age, from a culture of ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ and the philanthropic attitude of the upper classes towards the poor, filthy masses.
The problem with a blog about public toilets is that I can’t just write about anything – it’s meant to be loo-related.
My current strop about my walk to work relates to pedestrian-friendly cities, urban design and inclusive design, as do public toilets, so I reckon that’s enough to tie it in. For anyone who disagrees, I’ll add a loo-count*
Yesterday I made a map of my walk to work, showing the pedestrian crossings at crossroads (and one busy side street). Green is a pedestrian crossing at a traffic light, red is no crossing, and yellow is a zebra crossing.
Age UK have launched a campaign called Change One Thing where they support local older people’s groups to improve their neighbourhood.
Their campaign manager Mary Milne got in touch since naturally the subject of public toilets is coming up quite a lot! Over lunch with my Supervisor Jo-Anne Bichard we got onto the subject of Community Toilet Schemes: Do they work?
- Some people do not feel comfortable using pubs
- A Community Toilet Scheme cannot replace 24Hr provision
- Participants must cover a range of opening hours
- It should include disabled access toilets, baby-changing, family toilets, and if possible, a Changing Places facility
- A scheme by itself will not work in places with high tourism or events, where many people will arrive at once.
- The schemes won’t work in places without enough businesses, e.g. parks!
- You need to assess whether people are using the scheme and each of the different participants, else it’s a waste of money!
This last one bothers me quite a lot; enough to have written a post about it back in October.
How do you get the right participants?
Idea #9 is in line with some of my ramblings yesterday on taking a people-centred design approach to public services (and eventually building the Big Society).
“Rather than focusing on how participation can work (or be made to work) for people, [the Big Society debate] has instead focused on how participation can work for government.”
There’s been a lot of discussion about how the public can run local services as part of the Big Society. Libraries are the main focus, but public toilets are creeping into the mix.
It’s presented as an opportunity!
“*cough* we’re going to close your public toilets *cough* but HERE’S THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO RUN A TOILET FOR YOURSELVES!!!!“
It won’t come as a shock that people are not signing up in their droves to such an idea.
It will also not come as a shock that this is seen as a cover for making cuts: “We can’t afford to run the toilets, and if you really wanted them you’d be offering to run them for us”
Indeed this message is already confused since it’s not the man-on-the-street that the council are asking to take over facilities; it’s the smaller parish council or other legal entities. Whether the parish councils can afford to run public toilets when the district council cannot is a whole other story, though these guys are pretty chipper.
The problem that I have with this whole approach to the Big Society is exactly what the opening quote from the Involve blog hits on – it’s all about how the public can help the government out of a fix, not about how the government can help the public to create the society that they want (and that they want to get involved in).
I like the Big Society.
I like it because of how I’ve chosen to interpret it: as an opportunity to involve the public in the design of public services. Ideas around co-design (or co-participation) or Transformation Design (or service design, there’s a lot of overlapping terminology) have been bubbling away for years and through the Big Society there’s an opportunity to mainstream this approach in order to create people-centred public services.
What does this mean?
I’m making this up a bit so feel free to disagree with me, but here are some thoughts on how to go about it, using public toilets as the obvious example!
Too often in the public sector a policy or strategy is thought up, drawn up, then put out to public consultation in order to
tick a box get public approval. The designer’s approach would be to do… the exact opposite.