Disappointing - Accessible toilet is not accessible UPDATE
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Walking Aid
This review is for the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, which is on the Coram Campus. it opened in 2019 and can accommodate up to 160 delegates. The accessible toilet arrangements are inadequate and its location an afterthought involving a walk through 2 meeting rooms. It's shameful a modern building was designed without due regards to disabled people safe and accessible toileting needs. This on its own for me makes it unsuitable for a conference venue as I am reliant on using an accessible toilet. UPDATE: 15/11/2022: I had a reply to my complaint from Christine Kelly, Director, People and Compliance. Please see Additional information to read the response.
Transport & Parking
The nearest tube station is Russell Square, which does not have step free access. The nearest tube station with step free access is King's Cross and from there you can get a bus to Russell Square and from there it is a 10 minute walk. The campus is opposite Brunswick Centre (shopping centre), but I struggled to find a step free route through the shopping arcade and ended up using the stairs, so on the way back I walked round it.
Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre has a step free entrance and manual doors. There are several meeting rooms of different sizes. My meeting was in the lecture hall which had step free access and there were free standing tables and chairs. Later when I went to complain about the accessible toilet location I found that the door with the Reception sign on didn't have step free access. There was one last step and no handrail or grab rails. When I asked I was told this was a temporary reception as they were hosting an event.
The location of the accessible toilet is ridiculously. There is a small sign next to the regular toilet entrance door which states "wheelchair accessible facilities are available in the Story Studio via the Fielding Room or on the first floor via the lift". There is no signage for the accessible toilet. For a disabled person to get to the toilet they have to walk through 2 meeting rooms. Is a meeting to be interrupted to enable a disabled person access a toilet safely? Many disabled people who use accessible toilets do so because they have bowl or bladder problems, and may soil themselves if they have to wait to access a toilet. I followed the directions and found the toilet door was locked, not due to being occupied. I then had to look for a member of staff to open the door so I could use a toilet safely. When I found the member of staff I had to be accompanied to the toilet so they could unlock it. On the radiator was what looked like a pair of trousers and another article of clothing, which she quickly removed before steeping aside and letting me access the toilet. The size of the toilet itself, especially as it has a radiator that sticks out would mean that there is little or no turning area for wheelchairs, and wheelchair users most likely will have to reverse out as well as opening a manual door. Going to the toilet took most of my tea break and due to this I wasn't able to network and engage with other conference members during the break.
The member of staff I found who unlocked the toilet for me was very helpful and responded quickly. I asked if the door could be kept unlocked so I could independently go to the toilet next time, and she did. I raised the issue with the conference organisers and they are going to follow this up. After the conference I went over to reception. The receptionist was very helpful. There was no one to speak to about my complaint but she gave me an email address to write into, which I have done. She also told me that there had been a previous complaint about the accessible toilet but nothing had been done about it.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
I am deeply disappointed disabled people deserve much better. I felt infantised being escorted to the toilet instead of having the independence and dignity which was given to non-disabled people. I've made a formal complaint and have suggested. Please can the accessible toilet arrangements be reviewed urgently. Ideally the toilet would be re-located to an easier to access space. Failing that there should be clear signage where the accessible toilet is. Arrangements should be put in place so no one has to interrupt a meeting to use the facilities. The accessible toilet should be kept unlocked. Items of clothing should not be stored in the toilet. A check should be made to ascertain how easy the toilet is to access for wheelchair users and any problems identified addressed. The reception should be accessible to all, and the step free route entrance should be available . If the entrance is temporarily moved then a permanent ramp should be installed or a portable one easily accessible, to enable wheelchair users and other people who require a step free route. I would also suggest an audit of the suitability of the locations of the other accessible toilets on the campus and addressing any issues that arise. UPDATED 15/11/2022: Reply to my complaint Dear Tina, Thank you for your note of the 25th October 2022, which we received following your attendance at the SEPAN conference held at our Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. In this note you conveyed your very deep disappointment with the accessibility of toilet facilities for disabled colleagues and guests; you should never have found yourself in this position and for this I cannot apologise profusely enough. Your points are all well made, and you are absolutely right to bring this forward as a formal complaint. I have raised this complaint at the highest level and have met with both our CEO and CFO (responsible for estates and building work) who agree that this situation is totally unacceptable. We are working to rectify each and every point you have identified, some of which are more easily addressed than others but nonetheless these are high on our agenda, and comprise, better signage and accessibility to toilet facilities, step-free access to temporary reception arrangements, ensuring wheelchair users are better served and as you suggest a fulsome audit of our disabled facilities. I thank you for taking the time to write to us to point out these shortcomings and once again, I offer our most sincere apologies for the totally unacceptable situation you were in. Yours sincerely, Christine Kelly Director, People and Compliance