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Toilet User Personas

Sustainability Issue 7
Potential Users: Urban Design Professionals
, Local Authorities, Community
When to use: Stage One, Exploration, and Stage Two of Urban Design Decision-Making Process

Related Tools: Inclusive Toilet Hierarchy, Toilet Audit Tool, Toilet Case Studies, Toilet Design Templates, Toilet User Surveys
For more information, contact Julienne Hanson.

ToolsHouseClick here for an example persona of Terry (Ileostomy / Colostomy) (jpeg)

ToolsHouseClick here for a list of personas produced during the research (Microsoft Word document, 65.5kb)


ClerkToilet3Personas are a tool that the research group has developed to communicate users’ needs to the professionals involved in the design and management of away from home toilets. Each persona is an ‘archetypal user’ that has been created in collaboration with user groups involved in the research. The personas have been edited from narratives of actual user experiences. Each persona therefore provides a snapshot of their combined experiences, an amalgamation of all those involved in its development.

We have tried to avoid creating stereotypes to convey the information by explaining users’ aspirations and motives, rather than concentrating on their disability. Each persona is named, and incorporates what the user likes to do in the city centre as well as explaining how inadequate toilet design acts as a barrier to access in the built environment. The persona’s anonymity is able to communicate what might otherwise be considered ‘embarrassing’ details concerning the toileting needs of specific individuals. In addition to describing what the user / persona likes to do when away from home, and the difficulties experienced when using public toilets, the persona also includes a ‘wish list’ of the design features each persona would like included within the toilet facility.

Each item on the list has been identified as an aspect of:

  • Planning, because implementation would require changes to policy or legislation

  • Design, where implementation would relate to the layout and furnishing of the accessible WC cubicle itself, and/or

  • Management, where implementation is a matter for how the facilities are looked after on a day-to-day basis.


Personas can be created and used by:

  • User groups, to highlight the issues faced when using away from home toilets for the particular group.

  • Toilet providers, to assess if current provision meets the needs of particular user groups.

  • Architects and designers, when drawing up designs of toilet facilities.

  • Planners and policy makers, to develop a local strategy for public toilet provision.

Personas can be created from users’ input through a number of different methods. These are:

  • Focus Groups

  • Interviews

  • Questionnaires


Creating a Persona

When all the information from the focus groups (and any interviews and questionnaires) is collected, it is time to create the persona representing the participants’ experiences of toilet provision. Firstly, details from the focus groups, and any other modes of data collection, need to be noted. These notes will include:

  • What the participants like to do in the local area. For example, go shopping, go to the theatre, spend time in the park etc.

  • How the provision fails to meet the participants needs. For example it may be closed permanently, or at 6pm when shops are still open, or inaccessible to users with disabilities or chronic health conditions.

  • How provision can be improved. For example, extended opening times, improving access through upgrading fixtures and fittings, better management of facilities.

These notes will then be turned into a narrative that tells a story of the users’ issues, but under the name of the fictional persona. The story will describe the issues and suggest how these issues can be addressed. In addition the persona may include a wish list of the most important points that were raised. The persona should be returned to all those who participated in its development for verification. This gives credibility to the persona, which can then be used to communicate issues to providers of toilet facilities. It may be necessary to create several personas to narrate all aspects of a disability or impairment.


What our personas told us



Design items were by far and away the most numerous, with a total of 315 mentions by the 42 personas, which is an average of 7.5 items per persona. Altogether, the personas raised 77 separate issues that they would like to see included or improved in respect of toilet design. The top twelve most mentioned items were as follows:

1.  Non-slip flooring (17 mentions)

2.  Larger standard cubicles (15)

3.  Good, bright lighting (13)

4.  A paddle flush on the transfer side of the toilet (13)

5.  Provision of a shelf in the cubicle (12)

6.  Provision of a coat hook (11)

7.  The hand wash basin and other fixtures set at the correct distance and height in relation to the WC pan (11)

8.  Good quality door locks (10)

9.  Larger cubicle that includes hand wash provision (9)

10. Larger cubicle that includes a hose or tap for ablution (9)

11. Locks that are easy to open (e.g., lever type) (9)

12. Lever action mixer taps (9)


Eight personas would like better ventilation, good secure seats on the WC pan, a mirror to check clothing after toileting and a light outward opening door. Seven personas mentioned the need for a suitable bin for the disposal of changing pads etc., cubicles that are of a standard design, a level entrance, a preference for a fully enclosed cubicle, a plentiful supply of paper towels and a soap dispenser that can be operated with one hand.
Six personas required all the recommended grab rails to be installed and to be placed at the correct height, good quality urinals that offer a choice of heights including ones that are suitable for small boys, and a WC pan that is at least 480mm high. Five personas required a height adjustable changing bench, and the same number would like to see grab rails installed in standard cubicles. Four personas expressed a specific preference for unisex facilities, a good sized basin suitable for washing items like colostomy bags, the RADAR key scheme and privacy screens to be erected around urinals. Three personas mentioned that they required a hoist, and the same number expressed a need for a freestanding, height adjustable changing bench, family toilets, a plentiful supply of hot water, a WC pan at a height that is suitable for children, taps and basins so designed that they do not splash onto the floor, and a single sheet toilet paper dispenser. Two personas specifically wanted a peninsular layout, and two also mentioned a timer control that would let people know how long the cubicle would be occupied, wide tear off paper, grab rails around the urinals, accessible cubicles in the gendered toilets, water that is temperature controlled (especially in winter), a combined WC pan and bidet, a choice of left or right hand transfer, routes to the WC that are at least 800mm wide, and colour contrast between the fixtures and fittings and the walls.


Many design features were requested by just one persona, though several items would undoubtedly be of assistance to several. These included: adjustable height grab rails, more facilities for women, a height adjustable WC pan, a cubicle with curtains so that a caregiver can use the toilet in private whist assisting a disabled person, an alarm system, a drop down rail in front of the toilet, a fixture near the WC pan to hold a walking stick and stock level indicators on paper towel, soap and toilet paper dispensers.

Some suggestions were related to the sensory environment of the toilet, including: a low stimulation environment, instinctive fixtures and fittings that are obvious to use without instructions, glare-free fixtures and fittings and background music to mask the sounds of toileting.

Several items were raised in relation to children. These included: safe storage for pushchairs, child seats to be available in the male and female toilets, baby changing facilities in the men’s toilets and a larger changing table that is suitable for toddlers.

The persona that made the most suggestions was Victoria, who had polio as a child and now uses a power wheelchair and has limited upper body strength. She asked for separate 17 items relating to design to be installed in the accessible WC. Kyla and William each had 14 design requirements, Gail and Lou had 13, Eric, Paul and Tracey each had 12, Louise and Vincent had 11 and Garry had 10. The personas who needed the fewest adjustments were Mark and Melissa who needed 2 special items, Bill, David, Hashim, Rachel, Richard and Yvonne, who each had 3 requirements, and Pauline who had 4. It is interesting to note that the male and female personas representing the same impairment rarely had identical ‘wish lists’.



A total of 182 items were mentioned in respect of management, 4.3 per persona, in relation to 21 different management related issues. The top management issues included:

  • regular cleaning (34)

  • well stocked soap dispensers (27)

  • well stocked toilet paper dispensers (26)

  • well stocked paper towel dispensers (17)

  • the provision of bins for disposable pads, gloves, towels, and suchlike (11)

  • locks (RADAR or smart card) that are well maintained and kept in good working order (10)

Six personas mentioned the need for late evening opening toilets and five personas wanted disposable wipes to be provided, and for these to be well stocked. The same number wanted strong, secure toilet seats. Four personas mentioned the need for a good supply of warm water, good lighting and air hand dryers that are kept in good working order. Three personas wanted wide tear-off paper to be provided, dry floors and bins to be kept out of the transfer space. Two would like dispensers that show the level of stock remaining and one persona mentioned the need for good ventilation whilst another required temperature control.

It will be noticed that some management issues overlap with the design issues previously discussed and so need to be addressed by both architects at the design stage and facilities managers when the facilities are in use.

The most management issues (9) were raised by Victoria. Aileen, the mother of a disabled adult, and Alex, her son, raised 8 management-related issues as did Louise, a scooter rider with arthritis. The other personas raised fewer management issues.



Though the planning authorities do not have a statutory duty to provide public toilets, several planning items were mentioned by our personas, though these were less numerous than either design or management, with just 74 items raised altogether, representing an average of 1.8 items per persona. These related to 12 distinct planning issues. Each persona raised only 1, 2 or 3 issues. The most important, with 15 mentions, was the need for increased provision. Fifteen personas also raised issues at the interface between planning and design, such as ensuring that there is more choice in the range of toilet cubicles provided.

The next most important planning issue, with 9 mentions, related to the need for more evening provision, whilst 7 personas raised the issue of gender parity in toilet provision. Six personas mentioned the need to plan for good, unobstructed access to toilet facilities, and 5 asked that provision should be made in every town centre for a toilet with an adult changing bench and/or hoist. The same number wanted family toilets to be provided in all town centres. Four personas mentioned the need to provide adequate signage to the toilet facilities, 3 wanted the toilets to be provided in safe, well-used locations and the same number felt that toilets should be provided as standard at all transport facilities. The issues of unisex facilities and free public toilets were each mentioned by just one persona.


ToolsHouseClick here for an example persona of Terry (Ileostomy / Colostomy) (jpeg)

ToolsHouseClick here for a list of personas produced during the research (Microsoft Word document, 65.5kb)


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