I started this blog in 2009 with the intention of highlighting the differences in day-to-day life between France and England, with particular reference to their impact on running a large gîte. Three factors make this increasingly difficult: I've been in France for more than ten years now so I'm not really in tune with today's zeitgiest in England; I'm getting used to being here, so the differences are less noticeable; and lastly, much revolves around an annual cycle, so I am at risk of repeating myself. Occasionally, however, little quirks make themselves obvious, and this is one such.
I was having a treatment at a physiotherapist the other day and at the end of the session I needed to use the toilet. I asked if there was one I could use, and I was directed to what looked like a small cupboard with a "Sans Issue" (No exit) notice on the door. Inside was a perfectly functional toilet and a handbasin. Afterwards I enquired as to why it had been so labelled, and the answer was very French.
Since the establishment was open, in principle, to the public, a stringent set of standards apply concerning access for disabled people, including wheelchair users. Toilets for wheelchair users must have room to turn a wheelchair around in, and be fitted with bars, usually fixed to the wall, to help people transfer themselves from the chair to the toilet and back. The room in question was far too small to permit this, and enlarging it to the necessary dimensions would have taken up all the space in the small waiting room.
So the solution, in the case of this pre-existing arrangement is: if you have a toilet that doesn't meet the standards, you can't label it as a toilet, but you can still offer its facilities to able-bodied people who can make use of it. However, for the benefit of those people who can't work out that the door by which they entered the building is three feet away to their right, you have to make it clear that this door doesn't offer any kind of emergency exit route.