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Disabled Toilet Alarm Cords: Why You Shouldn’t Tie Them Up

disabled toilet alarm

A disabled toilet alarm is a pull-cord system that can be pulled in the case of an emergency, in order to request assistance. The cords are usually found in every accessible toilet, and will almost always look like a long red cord hanging from the ceiling to the floor. The disabled toilet alarm is designed for emergency situations, where a disabled person using the accessible toilet may be in some form of distress or danger. Reasons for needing to use a disabled toilet alarm can range from the routine to the severe; including the potential for an individual to slip and fall. 

If, for example, a disabled individual was using an accessible toilet on their own and they were to fall over and hurt themselves, they may not be able to get back up off the floor without assistance. This is where the disabled toilet alarm comes into play – thanks to the alarm being connected to an outside source (often signalling to a buildings reception area, or to the security team). A disabled person in need of help can pull on the long red cord and know that someone is on their way to assist them. 

Why Disabled Toilet Alarms Should Always Reach The Floor 

Unfortunately, it is quite common to find that disabled toilet alarms have been tied into a knot, to keep them up off the floor. This can often lead to the cord being several inches from the ground and therefore can cause additional problems if the disabled person is unable to get up off the floor. 

An awful scenario could potentially play out whereby a disabled person stumbles and falls onto the floor, and cannot reach the disabled toilet alarm because it has been tied in such a manner that it is unreachable. 

It is crucially important to ensure that the disabled toilet alarm is at least touching the floor, if not even longer whereby it is strewn out across the floor. This maximises the opportunity for a disabled person to reach it, should they need it. 

It may not look as aesthetically pleasing as it would do if it was neatly fastened up and tucked away somewhere, but in this instance, the disabled toilet alarm is not about ‘what looks the best’. Instead it is all about what is most practical and offers the most safety and assistance to the user.

Some General Tips On Disabled Toilet Alarm Requirements:

  • The cord for the disabled toilet alarm should be easily noticeable and should almost always be coloured red.

Given that red is a prime colour and is often associated with danger or alarm, it is a natural progression to suggest that a red coloured disabled toilet alarm cord would be best suited for attracting the attention of a potential user. A red cord is also preferable from an accessibility standpoint, given that those with a sight condition and/or partial sightedness will be able to distinguish a difference between the red disabled toilet alarm cord and any other cord (for example; a white cord for a light switch). 

  • Usually the red cord has two 55mm red triangle bangles, which the user can wrap their fingers around to easily pull the disabled toilet alarm. 

It’s important to have these red triangles as they offer a better form of grip for users than a singular cord otherwise would. For example, anyone who has issues with their fine motor skills, or dexterity, may struggle to grip a thin cord, and so the triangles act as levers which are easier to grab. 

  • The red triangle bangles should be reachable from the ground and from a seated position. 

If both of the red triangles were up off the ground then it may be nigh on impossible for a disabled person to reach the bangles when stuck on the ground. Having one on the ground will help to make sure that it’s always within arms reach. Similar to a triangle bangle being reachable from the floor, it is also important to ensure there is another bangle triangle which can be reached when sitting on the toilet. A disabled person may also need assistance when they are still seated. 

  • Once the disabled toilet alarm has been pulled, the user should be able to hear and see that the alarm has been activated. 

This prevents the user from routinely pulling the cord in the hopes of making it work. If there is an audible and visible signal then the user knows that the cord has been pulled and can wait for assistance to arrive. Ensuring that the alarm signal is both audible and visual, will also ensure more users are able to notice that the alarm has gone off. The visual signal is most advantageous for users who may be deaf, and an audible signal is most advantageous for users who may be blind or partially sighted.

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  • It is advisable to have a ‘reset’ button which a wheelchair user could reach (in case the user pulled the cord by mistake, or they no longer require help). 

It’s quite possible that a disabled toilet alarm cord could be pulled by mistake. For example, you may be in the disabled toilet with a young child, and in their inquisitive exploration they decide to tug on the cord. Due to circumstances just like this, it’s advisable for there to be an easy-to-reach reset button somewhere within the toilet. This would allow the user to cancel the distress call, if it was indeed a false alarm. 

  • The alarm which signals when the cord is pulled should be different from other alarms; i.e. a fire alarm. 

In terms of the audible signal that sets off when the user pulls on the disabled toilet alarm, it’s of critical importance that the signal sounds different to that of other alarms, such as the fire alarm. This will help to reduce confusion and anxiety, and will ensure that both the toilet user, and any passers by, aren’t mistaken by the nature of the alarm. It will also enable members of staff to identify the disabled toilet alarm, as they will be familiar with its unique sound. 

  • Wherever the alarm system is connected to should be easily seen and heard, so that those able to assist, will be made aware as soon as possible. 

Put plainly, what use is a disabled toilet alarm if the signal that the alarm gives off is not noticable by either passers by, or members of staff within the building. When fitting the disabled toilet alarm it’s extremely important that the corresponding alarm notification is placed in a spot which all members of staff are aware of and can easily see and hear. This will also enable staff members to respond to the alarm in a timely manner. 

The Fight to Keep Disabled Toilet Alarms Unravelled 

In a bid to make sure disabled toilet alarm cords are always unravelled and that they also reach the floor, many organisations are taking matters into their own hands by distributing signs which can easily be attached to the alarms cord. One such example of this kind of campaign can be seen with Scotland based accessibility charity; Euan’s Guide.

All of the ambassadors and associates of Euan’s Guide were given laminated notices which could be easily attached to the disabled toilet alarm cord that they come across in their day to day lives. These notices featured information on why it’s important to ensure the cords reach the floor of the toilet. It is hoped that reminders like this will help to reduce the amount of occasions where disabled toilet alarms are tied up and ‘put away neatly’ – often out of reach of those who may actually need to use them. 

To Round Things Up

The disabled toilet alarm system can be a significant lifeline for anyone who finds themselves in a moment of need. Being able to get the help and assistance they require should be viewed as a basic human right, which is why the alarm systems are so critically important, and is also why they should always be reachable – even if the user is stuck on the floor. 

If you enjoyed this article on disabled toilet alarms and would like to read more from the Invacare blog, then why not check out ‘Disabled toilet accessories to help with care’? Or if you’d like something totally unrelated to toilets, toilet accessories, or toilet alarms, then why not check out ‘Smartphone Apps to Make Disabled People’s Lives Easier’?

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