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Toilet signs leave public confused

By This is Gloucestershire  |  Posted: July 18, 2009

confusing: the new 'ambulant' public toilets in Winchcombe

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BAFFLING new signs on a public toilet in Winchcombe have left townspeople scratching their heads.

The signs, which advertise an Ambulant Urinal and Unisex Ambulant facility, have attracted puzzled looks from passers-by – and been panned by a plain English campaign group.

The signs are positioned on the toilets in Back Lane, which have been undergoing refurbishment.

Barbara Heard, from Gretton Road, Winchcombe, said she failed to understand how the signs could have been sanctioned by Tewkesbury Borough Council.

She said: "Does anyone have any idea what these signs mean?

"My husband and I regard ourselves as fairly intelligent but we have no idea.

"What will our overseas visitors will make of these signs?

"Is this political correctness gone mad?"

The Ambulant Urinal sign is accompanied by a picture of a man holding two sticks.

But the Unisex Ambulant picture simply shows a male and female image.

The Plain English Campaign is demanding the signs be taken down and flushed away for good.

Spokesman Marie Clair said: "This could be a contender for our annual awards.

"What on earth is an ambulant urinal? When did we stop calling a loo a loo?

"We work with a lot of councils around the country to cut down on jargon but Tewkesbury is not one of them.

"We will be getting in touch with the authority to see if there are ways we could work together to help them clarify their messages to the public.

"It's great that the council are making these provisions.

"But surely people can work out which little room they need – as long as they know it is actually a toilet.

"Legs crossed – they will use plain common sense and plain English in the future."

Chris Pike, head of commercial services at Tewkesbury Borough Council, said: "The slightly confusing wording on the new toilets has been brought to our attention and the architects have been asked to change it.

"The ambulant units are larger than the standard ones and are fitted with some disability aids.

"They are intended for people who may be partially disabled but cannot access the full disabled unit."

■ According to the dictionary, the definition of ambulant is:

1: able to walk about; not confined to bed;

2: not confining a patient to bed

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    Anon, Cheltenham  |  July 23 2009, 11:32AM

    I think the signs are very informative...If you refer to current building regulations (Approved Document M) it makes provisons for 'ambulant disbaled people' so you cant blame anyone for following the regulations set out by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister!

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    Rosemary Potter, Winchcombe  |  July 22 2009, 5:16PM

    Helen, the 'non-ambulant' lavs have a notice saying 'Disabled WC'. Weird or what?? To Roger from Calne - lavs not open yet, but I will send you pics once they are.

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    roger berry, Calne  |  July 21 2009, 7:52AM

    Can anyone send me pictures of the loos when they are open we would love to include them in our bog blog. roger.berry@healthmatic.com

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    natalie wallace, west midlands  |  July 20 2009, 4:15PM

    I feel that the architect who designed this needs to be awarded for his fantasic efforts in designing such a modern and diverse toilet system! If awards are to be given out this person definaltly deserves it and for those who do not share this opinion you need to be brought into the year 2000.

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    Rosemary, Winchcombe  |  July 20 2009, 1:36PM

    Hi Helen, yes you are correct in that non ambulant (lit. they do not walk) means disabled!! I walk past these lavs every day and have yet to remember to look at the doors. They are not even open to the public yet, as far as I can tell, as there is metal fencing around them. I will check again in morning. I was amused to hear that they were even mentioned on Radio 2 this morning. As Lucilius said: O quantum est in rebus inane! (Ah, how much futility there is in the world!)

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    Richy, Gloucester  |  July 19 2009, 9:52PM

    Im thinking maybe loos for those sporty Gym types well it does look like Parallel bars maybe

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    Does it, walk?  |  July 19 2009, 9:09PM

    Isn't an ambulant urinal, one that ambles up to you and offers its services? Anyone discovered whether it has a zip fly operating mechanism - or how it handles buttons?

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    Kay Powell, Tredworth  |  July 19 2009, 8:08PM

    Presumably, this sign is available ready made from some supplier, rather than being made up especially for the council. Therefore, we may see more of these humorous stories in the future.

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    Wanda, Stroud  |  July 19 2009, 6:16PM

    If, as has been said, "ambulant" means "able to move about", then the term is redundant here, as anyone who can't get to these loos obviously can't use them anyway!

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    Inspector Gadget, Cheltenham  |  July 19 2009, 10:29AM

    Before reading this article, I would have no idea of what ambulant meant, and would of assumed from the picture it meant male, but up an escalator.