Signs prescribing our permission to enter or abstain from specific places, such as those on toilet doors, mark murky borders between quasi-public and private space and have profound impacts upon our lives and identities. In this paper we draw on research which centred trans, queer and disabled people's experiences of toilet in/exclusion to explore how the signs on toilet doors shape disabled people's experiences of toilet access away from home and therefore their use of public space more broadly. We argue that the use of the International Symbol of Access (ISA) both delivers a false promise of accessibility and maintains the borders of disability through (re)enforcing a particular public imaginary of disability. We note the forced reliance on toilets in institutional and commercial settings when away from home and argue that, under capitalism, accessibility is persistently restricted by its potential to be lucrative.
Please see paragraph on citational practice at the end of section.
It is following the social model of disability that we use the term disabled people rather than adopting ‘person first’ language (ie people with disabilities) (see Mallett and Slater, 2014).
For those who are interested, we are hoping to start a conversation around this as part of a new Queer Disability Studies network. See: http://queerdisabilitystudies.wordpress.com; http://twitter.com/queerdisability
For more on the history of the ISA see Guffey (2018).
The pronouns used in this paper are those used by the participants. Some participants, such as Daisy, use multiple pronouns (e.g. ‘she’ and ‘they‘) and prefer their full range of pronouns to be used alongside each other within a sentence.
RADAR keys, also known as NKS keys, can be applied for or bought online and offer people independent access to locked ISA toilets across the UK. They are predominantly aimed at disabled people.