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Don’t Pull the Red Cord it’s for the Warden!

I’m sure many of you will have enjoyed a giggle at this famous Peter Kaye line about his Nan who lives in a warden aided complex with red emergency cords installed both in her kitchen and in her bathroom (which interestingly, Peter describes as being ‘tied up’.)

Whilst visiting his Nan one day Peter accidently pulls the red emergency cord in the kitchen mistaking it for the ‘big light’ and his Nan shouts at him, “Don’t pull the red cord, it’s for the Warden!”. Peter then proceeds to smooth over the situation with Dougie, the warden, who is 14 miles away doing a word search!

But, joking apart, red cords are serious business and can help to save lives. I recently learned all about the challenges faced by disabled people visiting disabled loos from listening to a Jeremy Vine phone in, and I must confess that even though I work in the industry I had never considered this as an issue. However, it has really sparked my interest in getting involved in a great national campaign and helping to make a difference to the safety of disabled people using accessible toilets nationwide.

Disabled toilets are often frequented by able bodied people, cleaners and parents using baby change tables and the red cords, which are there to provide a lifeline to allow disabled people to call for help in an emergency, are moved to allow the floor to be mopped or be tucked out of reach of children’s hands. Often the pull cord is tied out of the way, tied up, hidden behind a grab bar or viewed as a ‘nuisance’ to those unaware of its function.

There is even been a British Standard to regulate this - British Standard BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 states: ‘the red emergency cord should hang freely all the way to the floor’

An accessible toilet with the red cord free and touching the floor.

Christophe Andrats, a member of the RicaWatch consumer research panel, is a 57 year old retired IT consultant with three pet rats and has Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.

He has written reviews about accessible toilets and has encountered a staggering statistic:

‘In over 90% of accessible toilets I’ve used, the red cord has been tied up several feet above floor level which will be out of reach by someone who’s fallen’

And he asks the questions

‘Why do people tie up the red emergency cord with knots pulled impossibly tight to untie? The cord is there for a reason.

Why? So if I fall out of my wheelchair I can reach it. People seem to think:

  • Well clearly this toilet cord is ridiculously long! I'll tie a knot in it!
  • How wasteful! I'll shorten it with my scissors
  • How unsightly! It’ll be a relief just to tidy it out of the way.

This drives me potty. If I were to slip or fall whilst alighting my throne ie transferring from my wheelchair and was unable to get help promptly using the red emergency cord, or if I had a serious injury such as:

  • a broken rib puncturing a lung
  • a bleeding leg with a broken bone sticking out of it
  • the consequences could be dire:

My life could be in danger.

Christopher helps us to realise how this situation can be very challenging and dangerous for a person with a disability needing to use the toilet.

So National Access Charity, Euan’s Guide, has launched a campaign to inform and educate the general public regarding the importance of red cords hanging down fully to the floors of disabled toilets. They have devised a red cord card and have set an impressive target to try and ensure that every disabled toilet in the UK has a red cord card in it by the 19th November which is a significant date in the diary because it happens to be World Toilet Day ....... who knew?

So what actually is a red cord card?

Red cord cards are pocket sized notices that raise awareness of safety in accessible toilets.

The text on each card reads, “this red emergency cord must hang freely all the way to the floor, if it does not, it may prevent a disabled person from asking for help.”

The cards are splash proof to protect them from sinks, designed to easily slide onto emergency cords without setting off the alarm and printed in an easy to read font. It is important to raise awareness until everybody understands why emergency red cords must reach all the way to the floor and Euan’s Guide have produced these red cord cards and you can request them and hang them wherever you spot an emergency cord, good or bad and by spreading the word on social media using #redcordcard and #setthecordsfree.

40,000 cards have already been requested and there are already thousands of red cord cards raising awareness all over the UK.

Euan McDonald who is co-founder of Euan Guides says, “We want a red cord card in every accessible toilet in the UK. If the cord is tied up, wound around grab rails or cut short it prevents a disabled person calling for help. Please free the cords when you see them tied up and place a Euan’s Guide Red Cord Card on them. It may seem like a small thing, but it is often the small things in life that make things so much easier for disabled people.”

So this also got me thinking about disabled toilets in care homes and what processes may be in place to ensure that your red cords are always hanging free. Is it part of your cleaning schedule so that the cleaners when they clean the toilets, tick to say that the red cords has been left free hanging down to the floor? Is it considered an infection control risk or trip hazard having a cord hanging and touching the floor. Do your staff and visitors need informing and educating about this important and relevant issue?

What can you do to help improve safety in this area and potentially reduce the risk of falls and accidents in disabled toilet areas?

Well you can do the following:

Order quantities of red cord cards at https://www.euansguide.com/redcord

Like me you can take cards out with you when visiting public places with disabled facilities, and you can take a quick peek into the loos and follow these 3 simple rules, (thanks to Jennie Berry, a wheelchair user and passionate red cord card advocate on Instagram, @wheelie_good_life)

  • Red cords should NEVER be tied up. If they are it defeats the object of the cord being there in the first place. A red cord could potentially save someone’s’ life if it is hanging as close to the floor as possible (ie in reaching distance)
  • If you see one tied up always UNTIE it and inform the manager of the establishment not only that you have untied it, but WHY you have done it.
  • Attach a red cord card onto the red cord, whether it was a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cord, to spread the word and educate others of their importance and why not to tie them up.
  • Then take a selfie, like mine :) of you, in the toilet, with your red cord cards in situ and email us at [email protected] telling us where you were so we can share your lovely pics on social media to raise more awareness.

So apply for your red cord cards TODAY at https://www.euansguide.com/redcord

Help us to start making a difference and make every disabled toilet safer for all.

Hcsuk Managing Director, Jo Bonser, displays the first of the Red Cord cards we've fitted in an accessible toilet.



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