Archive for the ‘Toilet talk’ Category

Travels with my toilet seat

I have already written posts relating to the fact that the vast majority of toilets both in public and private places nowadays are lower than in many previous decades (eg ‘Penny-Pinching on the Porcelain’ and ‘Not Going Out’). I have described how, because of knees damaged by a type of Autoimmune Arthritis, I am totally unable to sit on low seats and because of this am seriously limited to where I can go and for how long I can be away from home. Specially adapted disabled toilets are available in places such as supermarkets, airports, stations, hospitals, etc and larger business premises but visits to friends, family and smaller establishments such as pubs and clubs, can be, for me, highly problematical. Older folk are often criticised for not wanting to go out as often as they used to and I think that inaccessible toilet facilities are often the reason behind this reluctance. It can be an embarassing subject so it is not discussed and fit, able-bodied people are just not aware of these problems that some of us have. This blog post is about some of the ways I have developed to cope in order that I may maintain as much of my social life as possible.

Firstly, I carry in my handbag a retractable tape measure. If I am unsure as to whether I will be able safely to sit down on a toilet somewhere, for starters I measure the height from the floor. Anything less than 43cm (17”) is beyond my capabilities. Even when the seat height is 43cm other factors pertain. If the space between the toilet seat and the cubicle door is not sufficient, or the seat is loose, then I cannot get up unaided, so it can be a bit of a gamble! Even the seat height in many designated disabled toilets is only 43cm but at least in most of these there are hand rails supplied either side and plenty of space for a helper if needed.

Secondly, when I am away from home and known surroundings I use a larger handbag in which I am able to carry a ‘device’! I have found that an aid called a Uriwell is an absolute lifesaver on such occasions when no accessible toilet is available to me. Unlike some of the other aids on the market this one is by far the most reliably safe and easy to use in my experience. It can be used whilst standing in a toilet cubicle then immediately emptied, wiped down with an antiseptic wipe and replaced in a suitable anonymous plastic bag back at the bottom of the handbag.

And finally, when I am away from home overnight at a hotel for example, I now take with me a portable riser seat which I have found available from an online supplier. Unlike the many and various other toilet seat risers on the market this one is truly portable and can be fitted and removed from any normal toilet seat in an instant. Although it is by its very nature large and bulky it is not unduly heavy and I have taken it in my suitcase when flying to Europe on holiday. I have also used it at a hotel in this country and for this type of use, instead of having to put it in a suitcase, I designed and made a special padded carrying bag so that there was no embarassing problem getting it from the car through hotel reception. I have actually bought two of these wonderful riser seats; one I keep in its special carrying bag for holidays and similar, whilst the other resides permanently in the closet next to the down-stairs toilet at my son’s family home available for me to use whenever I visit.

The two products I have mentioned have truly made a difference to my life. The Uriwell is available from many outlets but I only know of one supplier for the riser seat. var=540052832977&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649


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This first picture shows my toilet seat in position at a hotel in the UK. The second picture shows it in situ in the hotel bathroom in Leipzig. The third picture shows the carrying bag I made for the seat.

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Toilet height – general guide

According to the information on the webpage linked below, most toilets nowadays are presumably too low in height.  They certainly are for me and I’m only a little over five foot. 


Sadly I don’t have the option of sitting like the little stickperson in the first (too low)  diagram since my knees barely bend as far as 90 degrees so my legs have to stretch out forwards if I sit down on a low seat.  This compounds the difficulty I have in getting up with my weak/poor quad muscles.  Actually I doubt anyone would find it easy or even possible  to get up from such a position using their legs alone.  Humour me :)  Please try it and let me know.  I know that the only way I can get up onto my feet from such a low position is by lifting my entire body weight using my arms.  Now try this;  keeping your legs in this forward position, find a way to grip the toilet seat(hopefully it’s not loose like so many public ones are!) use just the strength in your hands and arms to lift yourself to your feet.  Whilst doing this briefly imagine what this action might feel like if you had arthritic hands or fingers.  How much effort did this take?  How many times a day could you repeat this?

So this is the challenge I face each time I go away from the accessible facilities in my own home.  It’s a gamble if I go somewhere new.  I suspect the majority of people who face similar problems to me are perhaps older and less inclined to take the risk.  But I have always gone out to clubs and theatres and live music events and I will not give up without making a fuss :)  I shall continue to monitor the situation and report back here with my findings. 

These recent posts have given me the opportunity to get these facts off my chest but realistically the situation will only change for people like me (and perhaps YOU one day!) when society as a whole addresses this issue.  The Equality Act of 2010 should help but are the requirements currently being met? 


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Accessible Toilets For All

Following on from my two earlier posts on this subject I’m hoping readers will tick a few boxes to give me some feedback.  Thank you in advance to anyone who does.

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not going out

I can imagine a time will come soon when sadly I will no longer be able to continue with my current social life.  I worry when I know that I will be away from home for more than a couple of hours.  Will the toilet(s) wherever I am be accessible to me? 

At my son’s new-build house the toilets that have been installed are only just within my current capabilities. 

This will make visiting for any length of time difficult for me. They had  choices of kitchen and wardrobe fittings and styles, and built in wardrobes in one room, but no choice was offered regarding types of bathroom suites.  Even if it had been, they would probably have opted for the one that everyone currently has.  It took me quite a while to get them to understand how this issue afftects me, and how, without a change in public understanding and installation, how it is virtually insoluble.  If even my own family don’t appreciate this problem how can I ever hope to sway public opinion in general?

Even when a disabled WC is available I can still have problems.  For example, here is a picture of the Disabled WC facility in my local branch of Sainsbury’s.

The pedestal height is designed primarily for the convenience of wheelchair users, who maybe need to slide across from chair to toilet seat or have access to the toilet from their already seated position in their wheelchair . 

Neither the swing rail to the left nor the fixed rail on the wall at the right are any use to help me get to my feet, because of their positioning which is too far apart for me to be able to use both at the same time.  I don’t need something to steady me, but rather something with which I can lift (or pull) myself to my feet.  So, the only benefit here for such as myself is that the room would allow someone to come in and physically help me to sit and stand!

And yet life could be so much easier.  The toilet I have had installed in my own bathroom doesn’t really look much different, does it?  Would the general public really be inconvenienced by the installation of these in more places?

Yet it is 3″ higher.  These three inches might very well represent my freedom to continue to go out and enjoy a normal social life.

I did go out last night.  I knew it would be a struggle but, from previous experience, I knew I could manage the effort, once!  I  had to restrict how much fluid I drank and dash to the loo as soon as  we got home.  I also had to wear what are now referred to as my ‘toilet boots’,  because these boots have a good flat non-slip sole whereas the ones I wore to the same venue last month didn’t!!  It was touch and go for a while as to whether I could get to my feet because my heels slipped on the tiled floor.  It was quite frightening and I could have really hurt myself or had to call for assistance which would have been unbearably embarassing at a music clubnight. 

This post has been a follow on from my earlier post https://phyzzezee.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/penny-pinching-on-the-porcelain/

and another is still to follow!  My mission is “Accessible Toilets For All”.

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Penny-pinching on the Porcelain

Why are the majority of toilets in existence today so low? Are they that way to save money on materials? Are they mainly designed and selected for installation by fit young men perhaps who have no thought or care for some of their users? Women have to sit down every time they use the toilet, unlike men. How often, if ever, is this considered?

I am not an expert in interior design but as I recall from personal experience, toilets used to higher. Was it in the seventies perhaps that the new fashion for low level suites came into play?

Surely I cannot be the only one who has daily and ongoing problems accessing the loos when I’m out and about? I’m one of that group of presumably ever-growing people who may or may not use the ‘disabled person’ epithet and who is getting progressively frailer as the years go by. Personally I have always been ‘disabled’ having had wonky legs from babyhood but lack of mobility and fully functioning joints come to the vast majority eventually.

Older people are often criticised for failing to make the effort to get out and about in society and staying at home. Well perhaps one of the reasons for us ladies in particular is the general lack of accessible toilet facilities both in our younger friends’ and family members’ homes and in public buildings such as cafes, shopping centres and perhaps worst of all in my experience, hotels.

Wheelchair users have a lot to contend with and in no way do I envy them but at least where facilities exist for them they are usually fit for purpose. As a non-wheelchair user with knees that do not bend properly when I am away from home I have to lift my body weight from the toilet pedestal by whatever strength I can muster in my hands and arms. And I have to do this on average more than ten times every twenty-four hours. Most pressure goes on my thumbs and wrists and this manoeuvre is only possible in cubicles that have sufficient space between the wc and the door to enable some forward as well as upward movement. Sometimes I sit down in an unfamilar location and blind panic sets in that I might have misjudged my capabilities in this case and be stuck there unable to get to my feet again without assistance! Even when I have used a loo successfully in the past, wearing the wrong footwear on slippy tiles can lead to near disaster as I found to my cost only last weekend.

In my own home I have no problem whatsoever. Several years ago when we had the bathroom re-fitted with a walk-in electric-seat -raising bath we had the foresight to choose a toilet pedestal which is higher than the norm. From the top of the seat to the floor measures 19”. No one would notice the difference in height visually and it cannot greatly inconvenience anyone of short stature since I myself am five foot three and my feet adequately touch the floor, but compared to all the other toilets I am obliged to make use of, getting up and down from mine is effortless!

Manufacturers are aware of the issues. Here’s a quote from one website.

Comfort also comes into play with toilet heights. Many manufacturers now offer toilets that measure a few inches taller than standard 14″ fixtures. “For taller people … it’s more comfortable,” says Suzie Williford, National Kitchen & Bath Association vice president and manager of luxury products at Kiva Kitchen & Bath in Houston, Texas. Taller toilets are also an integral part of universal design, which makes a bathroom accessible to all users regardless of mobility, because they make sitting down and standing up easier.”

And this webpage illustrates my case perfectly.


So, my plea is, let’s try and raise awareness on this issue. I’m fed up with looks of TMI (too much information) when I try to explain to younger fitter friends why I can’t go out as much as I used to, to clubs and pubs and gigs. Fit/younger people take so much for granted they need more information to appreciate the difficulties some of us oldies face. Let’s campaign for Taller Toilets and save our Spoons* for more interesting, fun exertions.

*For those unfamiliar with Spoon Theory please refer to the following post called “Spoons”.

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