This article was published in a different form in Wednesday’s Heckler column in The Sydney Morning Herald. You can link to it here.
I have some sympathy for Gerard Depardieu. You know, sometimes when you’ve gotta go, you’ve really gotta go. Doubly so when your use of a wheelchair severely limits the number of public toilet options available to you.
Last Friday I was in the QVB and an excess of caffeine did what it does. For some inexplicable reason, the disabled toilets in the QVB are on the 1st floor and the lower ground floor, accessible only by a very slow and often crowded lift. After taking the lift to the 1st floor, I found the accessible toilet locked. And it wasn’t locked by an MLAK — the Master Locksmiths Access Key system that provides people with disabilities 24/7 access via a common key. It was locked by security. I couldn’t find security so I asked a cleaner who promised to find security. After 15 minutes waiting I gave up.
Next stop was the HSBC Building, across George Street. But there was a large sign on the door of the accessible toilet ‘Door locked — see security’. Again, no sign of an MLAK lock, and no sign of security. After a search of the floor revealed no security office, I decided that as I was now very close to Town Hall station, that was a better option.
As soon as I entered the station, there was a sign that looked promising. It lead me around several corners and finally to the base of a large set of stairs — the sign pointing straight up the stairs to the HSBC Building I had just visited.
At that moment, in Friday afternoon peak hour at Town Hall Station, with no accessible toilet anywhere to be seen, the aisle of an Air France plane seemed a pretty private place for a pee.
Finally my search of the station revealed another toilet but my heart missed a beat as I saw another sign on the door. ‘Toilets only accessible with MLAK key.’ Bless CityRail. They can do no wrong by me. Trains can run late, platforms can be crowded, the Waratah trains can never be delivered — but I’ll be the last man standing (ok, sitting) and defending them.
The MLAK system is simplicity itself. It ensures those who need access get it and those who don’t are excluded.
What is it about building managers that causes them to ignore a widely accepted method of access control in favour of a solution that suits no-one? When will they get that accessible isn’t accessible if you can’t get in the door?
All I know is that unless they get it soon, they may find themselves mopping up, in the words of Gerard Depardieu, a lot more oui oui.