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Hotel owner flushed with success over disabled toilet survey

By David G Scott

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LOUISE Smith has been "dashing to the loo" across Caithness in a bid assess how well the county's toilets shape up for disabled people.

The Caithness Disabled Access Panel (CDAP) is surveying accessible toilets as part of its project known as the Caithness Accessible Toilet Award Scheme. The scheme was successful in gaining financial support at the recent Your Cash Your Caithness funding event.

Louise Smith and Andrew Mackay in the Norseman Hotel's disabled toilet.
Louise Smith and Andrew Mackay in the Norseman Hotel's disabled toilet.

Ms Smith, herself a wheelchair user, said: "A number of features should be present in accessible toilets – something which CDAP is checking and discussing with facility owners. This week at the Norseman Hotel in Wick I met with Andrew Mackay, manager of the hotel, to look at his facility’s accessible toilet."

She noted that the toilet geometry was good and the facility well equipped.

"Particular noteworthy are the dark-coloured bars which help the user transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet and, importantly, the toilet seat is dark. These features help people with vision impairments locate the toilet in predominantly white surroundings."

The Pulteney Centre was also commended for incorporating coloured schemes for the visually impaired in its toilets.

Mr Mackay talked about the current refurbishment of the Castletown Hotel – another establishment within his Caithness Collection group, which also includes the Pentland Hotel in Thurso. He is putting in a new accessible toilet as well as a room for customers to change in.

"I'm glad that Louise gave us a good rating. She also gave pointers as to how we can improve the facilities too," Mr Mackay said.

A fire in November last year at the three-star Castletown Hotel turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise with regard to upgrading the disabled facilities.

"I'd obviously rather there wasn't a fire at the hotel but it has given us the opportunity to do a thorough refurbishment and part of that will include having a disabled toilet facility for residents and non-residents. We'll also have a fully accessible ground floor bedroom for disabled people to use so that's really positive too."

Mr Mackay said there are some issues that he is more aware of since Ms Smith's visit.

"The pull-cord alarm has to be at floor level in case someone takes a tumble and can't reach up. We want our hotels to be accessible for 100 per cent of the population so we'll take on board all the points raised," he said.

Ms Smith said that she welcomed the "up-to-date facilities for the disabled" provided in the Norseman Hotel and how they were a "great example of best practice".

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