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Unlocking disabled toilets in Europe

Disabled toilets are often locked to prevent misuse and vandalism and to preserve them as safe and dignified places for people who need to use them. Having a universal key to enable access to accessible washrooms will improve your trip to the continent. But which disabled toilet key do you need in Europe?

What are universal disabled keys?

Having to ask an attendant for a toilet key is inconvenient. It can even be time-consuming at perhaps the worst possible moment should staff not be immediately at hand or able to find the key. The situation can be compounded if people without a disability regularly use the toilets meaning they are not easily accessible for those who really need them.

That’s why universal disabled toilet key schemes were introduced. Designed so that eligible people only have to carry one opener to access toilets and bathrooms designed to meet their needs, universal keys are widely used and available across Europe and in the UK. Such systems also enable operators to maintain a higher standard of hygiene in disabled toilets – something which is often needed for those with additional needs.

In the UK, access to disabled toilets is most often controlled by a RADAR key as part of the National Key Scheme (NKS). The NKS is administered by Disability Rights UK. However, RADAR keys typically do not work in the rest of Europe.

What universal disabled toilet keys are used in Europe?

Instead, in many EU states, you will need a Euro key. However, Euro keys are more widely used in some nations than others. Currently, they are most common in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Use of Euro keys is gradually growing in the rest of Europe and you’ll now also find them used extensively in the most popular countries for holiday destinations and city breaks in the likes of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Austria, Bulgaria, Sweden and Norway.

The situation is slightly different in the Republic of Ireland. In Eire, a separate scheme is run by the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA). Such keys are said to open 99% of locked disabled toilets in Ireland.

Who is eligible for European universal disabled toilet keys?

Anyone with a disability is able to have a universal toilet key. The schemes recognise that not all disabilities are physical and that some can be ‘hidden’. You will also usually have to provide proof of disability. The requirements for this are stated on each provider’s website listed below.

How do I get a universal disabled toilet key for a trip to Europe?

If you’re planning a trip to Europe and need to order a disabled toilet key, these are the links you need:

It’s always advisable to order universal toilet keys through the official channels. There are agencies and websites that claim to sell compatible keys but they don’t always work effectively. Universal toilet keys have been carefully designed to minimise the risks of cloning and copying.

Universal toilet keys – what do they mean for me on a trip to Europe?

It is perhaps a little frustrating that Europe and its constituent countries have never been able to implement a continent-wide universal key system. Issues are compounded by the fact each scheme will charge a fee to receive a key. It might not also seem ideal to have to provide details of a disability in order to get a key. However, this does ensure security is maintained and that disabled toilets are maintained for those who genuinely need to use them.

Accessible toilets can be used by those with hidden disabilities too

When organising a trip abroad, it’s also a good idea to download an app or bookmark a website that lists the locations of disabled toilets, for example:

  • The No Barrier website provides a directory of disabled toilets for certain European countries although you will have to open the site and use Google Translate for an English language version.
  • The Accessaloo website provides information on their app available for Android and IoS devices that lists accessible toilets all over the world.
  • Alternatively, if you would prefer a physical print form directory, then you can order the CDF Darmstadt guide that lists 12,000 disabled toilets across Europe. It’s available from the charity’s online shop.

Going to the loo, no matter the country, is an essential basic necessity. If you are a regular or an occasional visitor to Europe then acquiring each type of key is essential as part of your planning for a happy, stress-free trip

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call 0333 331 3770

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