Presenting the Around the Toilet report!

After three years working on the project, today we have published ‘Around the Toilet: a research project report about what makes a safe and accessible toilet space‘.

AtT Report JPeg

You can read the full report here, but for a bit of a taster, here’s a summary of our main findings, and why we think toilets matter:

Main findings

  • Toilet provision in the UK is currently inadequate for a wide range of people, due to both relational and functional flaws. We need more public toilets, more accessible designs, and different attitudes and ways of understanding the space and our fellow occupants.

  • Many trans and disabled people experience significant difficulties in accessing a safe, usable and comfortable toilet away from home.

  • Toilets labelled as ‘accessible’ are often in fact inaccessible for many disabled users for a range of reasons.

  • There is a lack of toilet research, particularly in the UK, which takes seriously trans people’s experiences of harassment and violence in binary gendered toilets.

  • There is a need for more all-gender toilet provision (sometimes known as ‘gender neutral’ toilets). This would benefit a range of people including: parents with children of a different gender; those who care for people of a different gender; some disabled people who have a personal assistant of a different gender; and some people whose gender is questioned in the toilet, including some trans and non-binary people (and, to a lesser extent, some cisgender people).

  • A ‘one size fits all’ approach to toilet design doesn’t work – there is no one toilet design to suit all users’ needs. Nevertheless, consideration of all users and moves towards improvement are crucial.

Why toilets matter

Toilets are largely undervalued and trivialised spaces; rarely prioritised in local authority budgets, and often given to the least experienced architects to deal with at the end of the design process. Yet, a lack of access to adequate toilets away from home can result in the following:

  • an inability to leave the house, restricting access to wider environment and community, leaving and losing jobs. In other words, not having access to suitable toilets impacts upon people’s fundamental ability to live their lives.

  • restrictions upon bodily functions, including reducing food and drink and ‘holding on’ for long periods of time, all of which can have serious health implications.

  • feeling socially unrecognised, unworthy, and unwelcome, if toilets do not meet your requirements and/or recognise your identity.

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LAUNCH: Designing Toilets Toolkit

The Toilet Design Toolkit is a digital tool designed to support architects, designers, academics and students to critically and creatively rethink notions of access in relation to the toilet design process.

The digital design toolkit is the result of the evolving relationship between architectural education and Around the Toilet. In 2015 the Around the Toilet Live Project at the Sheffield School Architecture raised awareness of the inadequacies of toilet design and students analysed existing building standards and regulations in relation to toilets and accessibility. Through Servicing Utopia, in 2016, we ran workshops with architects to engage with, and explore, the opportunities and challenges related to the design of safe and accessible toilet spaces. Most recently, in 2017/2018, various pedagogical methods have been used and developed in the teaching of a group Masters of Architecture students at Sheffield School of Architecture.

The toolkit has organically developed through the projects interaction with education. It responds to the stories of people involved in the Around the Toilet project for whom accessing a safe and comfortable toilet space is a continual challenge. The toolkit aims support practitioners and students when designing toilets and aims to encourage and empower them to rethink our inadequate and outmoded approach to the design of toilets.

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The Toilet Design Toolkit encompasses a range of resources that enable people to engage with toilet design at varying levels of detail and intensity; from alternative CAD toilet templates, to practice exemplars and pedagogical examples. The resource aims to support more informed decision making and creative approaches to toilet design.

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The toolkit was developed in conjunction with Live Works, The University of Sheffield School of Architecture’s ‘Urban Room’.

The Toilet Design Toolkit is openly accessible to all at: www.aroundthetoilet.wixsite.com/toiletdesigntoolkit

Places you can read Lift the Lid zine!

Back in January we launched our zine, Lift the Lid – a collection of stories, artwork and musings about toilets and accessibility. As well as reading the zine online, we’ve been posting out hard copies to various organisations and individuals and had some lovely feedback!

Although stocks are definitely running low, we still have some zines left. We’re really keen to get these to places where multiple people can read them – we’re thinking coffee shops and cafes, libraries, hairdressers, doctors waiting rooms, student’s unions and other places where you might pick up some reading material or need something to pass the time! If you know of places that might be interested in having one, they can be requested using this online form (we’re also open to requests from individuals – but please pass it on if you’re finished with it, rather than chuck it in the recycling!)

In the meantime, here are a list of places that you can already read the zine:

Also soon to be available at:

The Toilet. film now available online!

We’re really excited to announce that our short animated film, The Toilet. is now available to view online! This follows screenings at various international locations including in Reykjavik, the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF), Manchester Animation Festival and Together! Disability Film Festival.

The Toilet. is a quirky short animated film that explores the importance of the toilet in feeling comfortable and welcome in everyday life. It illustrates how inaccessible or unsafe toilets affect people in a range of ways, stopping some from leaving the house, and leading others to lose their jobs, or avoid food and drink, and taking day trips and holidays.

Through the stories of trans, Muslim and disabled people, we show how current toilet provisions prioritise some people’s needs at the expense of others. Toilet access is an important social and political issue and we need to fight for change.

We’d love for the film to be used by those campaigning for better toilet access. Let us know what you think either by email (aroundthetoilet@shu.ac.uk), or using the form at the bottom of our materials page.

Produced by Content OD and the Around the Toilet project

Funded by AHRC Connected Communities

Director: David Moore

Animator – Michaela Wozny

Sound/Video Editor – Richard Tissington

Collaborating Producers – Charlotte Jones, Kirsty Liddiard, Gemma Nash and Jen Slater

This film is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). For more information see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Lift the Lid: A Zine About Toilets

Everyone has a toilet story. Sometimes they’re funny, told amongst friends and interspersed with laughter from behind coy hands, smiles and blushing faces, and sometimes they’re whispered or guiltily divulged in secrecy or shame. Sometimes they’re spoken casually, or proudly, without deliberation. But often they’re not told at all. We believe these stories and experiences are important, and part of our focus in Around the Toilet has been to share toilet stories and experiences. We’ve done this through film, soundscape, a toolkit for architects and designers… and now we’ve made a zine

 

 

In the zine we have collected toilet stories, alongside musings, ideas and opinions about the varied – sometimes mundane, but often crucial – role that toilets play in our lives.

Our work in Around the Toilet started with a focus on different ways of thinking about ‘accessibility’ and exclusion in public space. We argued that current ways of thinking about toilet access are too narrow and generic. Toilet access requires consideration of so many things: mental health, faith, gender, sexuality, race, disability, class, homelessness, workplace and labour rights, fatness, age, parenting, and much more. Toilets need to be designed and used with creativity, diversity and openness, reflecting the bodies, identities and requirements of the people who use them. Toilets need to be better!

This zine opens up conversations on many of these issues from lots of different people with different and sometimes contrasting perspectives – we’ve been so excited to see it take shape, and extremely thankful for the incredible contributions we were sent from all over the UK and Europe. The zine is also a small tribute to our friend, colleague and collaborator, Lisa Procter, who died in November 2017. We are very thankful to our incredible illustrator and designer, Stacy Bias, who has created a zine that we know Lisa would have loved.

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Lisa riding her dog, Buddy, through the mountains. A sketch by Stacy Bias.

You can view the zine online here. Although we are unable to send printed copies to individuals, we have a limited number for organisations and collectives. If you would have a use for the zine then get in touch with Jen at j.slater@shu.ac.uk and let us know what you’d like to use it for.

With thanks to the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) and Connected Communities for providing the funding to create this zine.

Thank you, Lisa

[Content Note: Death, grief]

It’s with great sadness that we share with you the passing of our wonderful friend and colleague, Lisa Procter. Lisa was one of the original plotters of the Around the Toilet project back in Summer 2014, and has been key to the project’s success and our enjoyment along the way. She brought creativity and vision, a determination to include the voices of children and young people, a knowledge of many disciplines, so much energy, stacks of enthuasism, and, of course, a lot of laughs.

Although we already miss Lisa greatly, we are left with memories of her excitement over new technologies and unusual materials that could be used in workshops; brightly coloured masking tape falling off walls; getting stopped by fashion students in Manchester to take Lisa’s picture (definitely not Jen’s – however much Jen wished it was!); paddling in fountains in Bristol; an eye for perfection – cringing and then re-doing Jen’s wonky attempts at folds and lines; stories of her adventures; and chats over coffees, ciders and beers.

Lisa had a way of getting people doing and thinking without always needing to use words. Somehow she would turn messy ideas into a clear concept in under 3 minutes (preferably with the aid of some sharpies and big paper). She was very willing to take risks and try new things, and always seemed prepared and confident, even in the most precarious or uncertain of circumstances. It was with her encouragement and bravery that we made many of our most exciting and creative decisions in the project.

We can say with certainty that the Around the Toilet project would not have become what it is if it was not for Lisa – and we’re not sure where it will go without her… but wherever it goes, it will be with her in mind, and her influence will always be in our work. For now we will remember Lisa and thank her for her generosity and friendship, and for shaping our ideas and the work that we will continue to do.

Jen and Charlotte x

[An image of three people standing in a row with their arms in the air, looking into the camera with big smiles. They all hold toilet accessories: a toilet brush, signs, wet wipes, body spray and a urine sample cone. L-R: Jen, Lisa, Charlotte]

Whose Body, Whose Space? – Film Screening and Discussion

Monday 6th November 2017, 6pm – 7.45pm
The Workstation, Paternoster Row, Sheffield
Free to attend and all welcome (but please register here)
Facebook event here

This film screening and discussion explores the experiences of queer, transgender, and disabled people living in a society which hasn’t been built for their ease, comfort and safety. How does the design and use of public space teach us who’s welcome and in what form? What are the consequences of pushing some bodies and identities to the margins of society? How would a different society look, and are you ready to join us in the fight for change?

We will show a series of lively short films, including an exclusive Sheffield premiere of a new animation from the Around the Toilet project, which weaves together personal accounts from transgender, disabled and Muslim people. The film illustrates the trials and tribulations of accessing and using public toilets in a society where some are made to feel welcome and others are not. This will be screened alongside films from local and international projects about the discrimination and inequalities faced by a range of people and bodies.

Following the screening we will host a discussion, where you will be invited to share your own stories if you wish to, participate on Twitter, and consider how we can join together to inspire social and spatial change.

A range of non-alcoholic drinks and snacks will be served at the event.


We are pleased to present the following short films:

The Toilet. (5m)
This quirky animation weaves together personal accounts from trans, disabled and Muslim people, who share the trials and tribulations of accessing and using public toilets in a society where some are made to feel welcome and others are not.

Skeleton in a Beret (7m)
Two trans people talk about how they have actively used videogames as part of how they explore not just their gender, but their skills, self-confidence, and self-expression.

Flying While Fat (6m)
This animation presents the voices of fat passengers as they explain the challenges of fitting into spaces that exclude them both socially and materially. The animation encourages people to empathise with fat people as fellow passengers and human beings, and to think about the political and economic relations that contribute to this exclusion.

Jes Sache – Body Language (3m) and Mel G. Campbell (3m)
Two films produced as part of Poject Re•Vision, which uses disability arts to disrupt the stereotypical understandings of disability and difference that can create barriers to healthcare. Their stories wrestle with ways of representing disability in a culture in which disabled bodies are on display or hidden away; and how film-making allows disabled artists to explore possibilities of ‘looking back’ at ableist gazes.

This event is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, which takes place across the UK from 4-11 November 2017.


Accessibility Info (please get in touch with any queries)

– The event will be on one flat level and all heavy doors will be propped open for ease of use

– Films will be subtitled and BSL interpreters will be present

– No alcohol will be served at the event, and vegan, vegetarian and gluten free diets will be catered for

– Gender neutral and accessible toilets will be available in the venue

– The nearest Changing Places toilets are located at Sheffield Crucible and Ponds Forge (the Arundel Building toilet is currently out of use)

– Venue is approximately five minutes’ walk from Sheffield train station

– Venue is a short distance from the M1 parkway and Sheffield city centre. The sat nav postcode is S1 2BX.

– There’s a double blue badge parking bay which has space for three cars just outside on Paternoster Row, in-between Workstation and the Showroom cinema. It gives blue badge holders free parking all day.

– There is limited non blue-badge parking on Paternoster Row but there are several car parks in the area. Visitors receive 50% discount for Q Park located on Charles Street, S1 2NJ with an exit voucher at the Box Office or Workstation Reception.

Contact us on aroundthetoilet@shu.ac.uk if you have any questions.

Activists in Reykjavik launch the new Around the Toilet film

This post is written by Jen Slater and also available on their blog.


Around the Toilet has gone through several phases to date. One of its current aims is to take our conversations of toilets, disability, gender and access to grassroots disability and queer arts and activist spaces internationally. This is particularly exciting as it means touring our new animation, The Toilet, to different spaces, including film festivals and activist groups. Last week, the tour began as Gemma Nash (disabled artist, and Community Co-I on the project) and I travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland for our animation’s WORLD PREMIERE. This blog post summarises the event.

We were hosted by three organisations: Tabú (a disabled women’s activist organisation), Trans Ísland (a trans people’s advocacy and activist organisation) and Samtökin ’78 (Iceland’s national queer organisation). The event itself took place in the building of Samtökin ’78 – and we were excited on arrival by the rainbow unicorn greeting us on the wall!

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Gemma and Jen stand under the ‘rainbow unicorn’ before the event.

I spoke first about the origins of the project. I drew on Alison Kafer’s book, Feminist Queer Crip, to talk about the (not always easy!) relationships between queer, feminist and disability movements. Kafer uses the toilet as an example of space that is sometimes contested between (and indeed, within) these movements.

For example, some trans and other gender non-conforming people have and continue to fight for a greater provision of gender neutral toilets. Although we often don’t think of it as such, the most frequently available gender neutral toilet space is the ‘accessible’ or the ‘disabled’ toilet. In 1998 Sally Munt, discussing her experiences as a butch lesbian, named the ‘disabled toilet’ a ‘queer space’ – “‘a stress-free location […] in which I can momentarily procure an interval from the gendered public environment, and physically replenish”.

Some disabled people, however, have argued that disabled people should have access to binary gendered (men’s/women’s) toilets. They say that gender neutral accessible toilets contribute to the positioning of disabled people as a ‘third gender’. Furthermore, disabled woman scholar and activist, Kay Inckle critiques Munt for “co-opting limited accessible facilities”, or, in other words, using toilets which weren’t made for her. Inckle argues that although gender neutral toilets may be considered progressive by some people, “for many disabled women, to be considered female and/or as sexual at all would be a major stepping-stone on the rocky and inaccessible road to human status”.

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Jen presenting on the origins of the Around the Toilet project

Despite critiques such as Inckle’s, it’s important to note that many disabled people (trans and cis) want to retain the gender neutral space of the accessible toilet. There are many reasons for this, including having a personal assistant of a different gender. Indeed, in the talk, I discussed how the workshops that we’ve held with trans, queer and disabled people have provoked a range of emotions and responses. Many non-disabled trans people have spoken to us about feeling guilty if they use the ‘accessible’/’disabled’ toilet, despite being scared to use the binary gender men’s and women’s bathrooms. Furthermore, some trans and disabled participants said we should use labels for toilets which tell us what is in them, rather than who should be allowed to use them.

In her talk which followed, Gemma highlighted how disagreements about toilet space don’t just occur between different movements and groups of people, but also within them. Gemma discussed her experiences as a disabled mother. She talked about how some disabled people actively campaign for the removal of baby changing tables from the ‘accessible’ (or ‘disabled’) toilet. Their argument is that as changing a baby can take a long time, it prevents disabled people using the toilet. Some people also say that it infantilises disabled people (positions them similarly to babies). However, Gemma told us the importance of having accessible baby changing facilities. When her daughter was a baby, having the baby changing in the accessible toilet was the only way that she could comfortably change her child, whilst also using the toilet herself. She said that most people don’t consider that disabled people may too be parents.

The themes above are a snapshot of some of the difficult, and often painful, barriers to access that are covered in our new film, The Toilet. The film illustrates how inaccessible or unsafe toilets affect people in a range of ways, stopping some from leaving the house, and leading others to lose their jobs, or avoid food and drink, and taking day trips and holidays. Through the stories of trans, Muslim and disabled people, we show how current toilet provisions prioritise some people’s needs at the expense of others.

Toilet access is an important social and political issue and we need to fight for change.


Thank you SO much to Tabú, Trans Ísland and Samtökin ’78 for hosting this event and to those who attended for the fascinating discussion. Keep an eye on our blog for an updated list of where you can see screenings of, The Toilet. We’ll also be announcing them on Twitter (@cctoilettalk). The Toilet will also be available online to be used by groups and organisations in early 2018 (watch this space!).

Call for Submissions: Toilet Zine

We’re inviting contributions to a zine all about toilets, access, and inclusive/exclusive spaces.

What can I submit?

Contributions in a range of formats are welcome: personal experiences, creative writing/stories, drawings, poetry, political essays, experimental pieces, or whatever you feel like doing. Contributions can be written anonymously if you prefer.

Please keep submissions to under 1,000 words.

What’s a zine?

A zine is a self-published mini-magazine. They can be collaborative or written individually. We’re making a collaborative zine because we’re hoping to express the wide range of different uses and experiences we have of toilets.

What are the themes?

One of our aims is to raise awareness about the ways that toilets can be unsafe, uncomfortable, and inaccessible for some people. However, we also welcome submissions that reflect on positive toilet experiences, the important role they play in our lives, and the privacy and quietness they can often provide for some of us. Themes may include:

  • Toilets and mental health

  • Disability and accessibility

  • Transphobia and public toilets

  • Racism, Islamophobia and public toilets

  • Intersex, body policing and public toilets

  • Toilets and intersectionality (especially experiences from trans, non-binary, queer and/or disabled people of colour)

  • Fatness and fat phobia in toilet spaces

  • Sex and sex work and public toilets

  • ‘Invisible’ impairments/disabilities and toilet-use

  • Parenting/childcare and public toilet facilities

  • Drug-use and toilets

  • Homelessness and public toilets

  • Funding cuts and the closure of public toilets

  • Periods/menstruation and toilet facilities

  • Importance of gender neutral toilets

  • Toilet door signs/labels

  • Queer and radical potential of toilets

  • Toilets, campaigns and protest

  • Critical ideas about ‘access’

How do I submit?

All zine submissions should be sent by Friday 14th July 2017 to aroundthetoilet@shu.ac.uk or, if you would like to submit your contribution anonymously, then please use our electronic form. You’re welcome to email us an online document, scan or photograph of your contribution, or you can post something through the mail if you’d prefer.

All contributors selected for the zine will be given a small gift of thanks.

Please note: we’re hoping to include a wide range of submissions in the zine but we want to keep the zine readable and easily reproducible, so we can’t guarantee everything we receive will be included in the final publication. We’ll be in touch to let you know either way.

Please get in touch with us via aroundthetoilet@shu.ac.uk if you have any questions or if would like to discuss your ideas with us.

Thank you to the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCPPE) for funding this zine.

Toilet Zine flyer.png

Please make use of our toilet resources!

We’ve created a new section on our website to collate the Around the Toilet materials we’d like to share with you all – please make use of it and feel free to share it with your colleagues/communities. The ‘Materials‘ page will be regularly updated with new resources as they become available.

There are a range of ways we think these resources might be useful to others, such as: university teaching/lecturing, teaching in schools, activist/political campaigning, research, design and workshops. We hope you may have other ideas too!

The materials we’ve produced focus on toilet use and access in a range of ways, but may also be of use in exploring issues beyond the toilet. Some of the themes of our work include (in)accessibility, discrimination against queer and trans people, disability, ableism, religion, gender, sexuality, bodies, parenting, workers’ rights, architecture and design, schools, and toilet ‘training’.

If you do make use of our materials (or if you already have!), we would really appreciate your feedback and a bit of information about how the materials are used. There’s a short form on the Materials page for you to get in touch. We hope the materials will be useful to you and encourage some interesting and important conversations!