At Your Convenience: A Lavatorial Walking Tour
RADAR Keys & Deviant Behavior
You’ll see Covent Garden’s accessible toilets here on your right. They require a radar key. The radar key scheme started in 1981 so that people with disabilities could "go in peace, and quickly, without the indignity of asking someone if they can have a wee, please.”
Today in the UK there are approximately 9,000 toilet doors listed as being RADAR accessible including public toilets and those in private businesses. RADAR stands for the Royal Association of Disability and Rehabilitation.
Stop here in the alley.
“Why are the disabled toilets kept locked? you might wonder. They are large and private spaces which lend themselves to a number of activities other than their intended use.
Sam Cady is an academic currently researching deviant behavior in toilets:
[Sam] “Fundamentally, toilets are spaces in which privacy is blurred, and the tension between public and private space is highlighted. The Victorians, who paved the way in terms of sanitation constructed the first public loos, and many of their inherent fears transpire in our familiar toilet architecture. The location of loos was often such that facilities were sited in the middle of roads or underground, positioned so that Gentlemen, and later Ladies, were unable to see each other entering, thus conserving modesty, but also building a wall of silence between users. Even today we generally try to avoid contact or even notice the existence of others in the bathroom, although perhaps a display of British prudery this does have its used for those seeking to engage in deviant behavior, and in some instances toilets become the only space in which these off-bound activities can occur. Think back to when you were at school. Did you ever sneak off to the bathroom for a cheeky cigarette? It is exactly this kind of deviant behavior we’re talking about. Toilet spaces offer opportunities like this because they offer freedom from observation, and so they are perfect deviant spaces."
Cross the street and turn left. We’ll hear more from Sam on the other side.