The RADAR Key Scheme or National Key Scheme (NKS) offers people with a disability independent access to over 9000 locked public toilets around the country. Accessible bathrooms in public spaces are usually locked to restrict access to those who really need them. They are wheelchair accessible, have large floor space, some have hoists or a height adjustable changing bed and RADAR keyed toilets now all unlock at the turn of a single key.
The Ergohacks Verdict
The RADAR Key Scheme is obviously brilliant for those with a severe physical disability unable to access standard toilet cubicles at public venues. However, not all disabilities are visible and many with invisible disabilities are hesitant to make use of the system. Walking along Southbank in London a few weeks ago, on our way to the London Eye, Cass desperately needed quick access to a toilet and some private space to sort out an insulin pump cannula and tubing. We headed down to the toilet in McDonalds as the loos at The Eye had a 30 minutes queue and just walked into another queue of around two dozen people.
In the olden days before picking up a RADAR key, we would’ve had to ask politely to jump the queue. I would’ve been required to share embarrassing personal and rather private information more than once to work our way to the front of the line quickly. This time, I opened the bag and we walked passed the line to the door of the disabled toilet and unlocked it. Ensconced inside, we found much needed space, dignity and independence. On exiting, a lady stopped me and asked why we had special access. I immediately put on my polite but firm smile and started replying with my broken record line – it’s a disabled toilet and not all people have a visible disability, but just because a disability isn’t visible, doesn’t make it any less disabling or less valid. She touched my arm and shook her head, then said, “No, that’s not why I’m asking, I think it’s brilliant, my mother is disabled and she could use a key like that.’
The RADAR Key Scheme is not only for the severely disabled, it’s also for anyone who require use of the facilities due to an invisible disability or health condition. If those of us with invisible disabilities shy away from using the support put in place for us as well, perception – including our own – is never going to change. The next time you put off going out because you’re worried about not having (quick enough) access to a toilet or private space, consider picking up a RADAR key. They cost less than £5, can be purchased on-line and with 9,000 accessible toilets in the country, there’s bound to be a RADAR locked toilet near you. If you have a disability or chronic illness you should have a Radar key. They are inexpensive and priceless at the right moment.
Price: ± € £2-5
RADAR Keys are currently widely available on-line, but not all will work reliably. We’ve purchased the keys linked above (and they’ve all worked well) from Blue Badge Company, NRS Healthcare and Walker Locksmiths via Amazon. Keys can also be bought from Disability Rights UK.
About RADAR Scheme
The National Key Scheme (NKS) offers disabled people independent access to locked public toilets around the country. Toilets fitted with National Key Scheme (NKS) locks can now be found in shopping centres, pubs, cafés, department stores, bus and train stations and many other locations in most parts of the country.
RADAR keys are big, chunky keys that doesn’t easily fit on a keyring, but slip into a bag (or glucose test kit) easily. They are made to be used by those with reduced grip.
We based our Ergohacks Verdict on 5+ years of unlocking disabled access toilets across England. This article was first published on 21 March 2014 and last updated on 4 July 2017.