The Bowgie Inn in Crantock has joined forces with EasyAccessibility Ltd to install the first talking assisted toilets in a pub in the UK, providing dignity and independence to its visitors who live with sight loss.
Director Sally Pickles approached EasyAccessibility in 2019 with the idea to implement the disabled access toilet facility during The Bowgie’s refurbishment, which started in 2018.
Sally commented: “I’m so incredibly proud to be the first pub in the UK to have one of these toilets installed, we could even potentially be the first pub in the world! We’re always striving to do as much as we can here at The Bowgie for all members of our community and this is something we’ve been working towards for a long time, so it feels amazing to finally have the RoomMate installed.”
The RoomMate is an electronic, wall-mounted device, which offers blind and visually impaired visitors bespoke audio description in an accessible toilet. Each unit also comes complete with a high visibility door sign to indicate that the facility has a RoomMate installed.
EasyAccessibility was formed in 2014, with the first RoomMate unit installed in Newquay Health Centre in 2015. The RoomMate has now been fitted in a number of other notable places, including Westminster Palace, Heathrow Airport, The Eden Project and The Minack Theatre.
Co-directors of EasyAccessibility, Steve and Helen Holyer, commented: “The iconic Bowgie Inn has raised the bar – excuse the pun! – in accessibility in the hospitality industry. No one wants to worry when out and about whether the toilets are suitable for their needs. Now locals and visitors with sight loss, dementia or learning disabilities can confidently visit the Bowgie Inn and pass on this positive experience to their friends and family.”
Helen continued: “The customers who encounter RoomMate for the first time always comment on how fantastic it is. It addresses a problem all those with sight loss must face when away from home. Knowing The Bowgie Inn has a RoomMate fitted will encourage these customers to come and feel comfortable, welcomed and independent.”
Steve, who lives with sight loss himself, commented: “It’s so necessary to have some sort of guidance. Every accessible toilet is different, and it’s often very difficult to find your way around. If there’s no guidance, often the only option is to feel your way around, which is certainly not conducive in these times especially.
“Not only have we addressed this issue, but now the added public health message, ‘Please, always remember to wash your hands,’ is included in the greeting audio for every person who enters the facility.”
In 2019 Steve was chosen as one of the five winners for the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK, and in 2020, RoomMate won the National Rail Award for Customer Service Excellence.
“Not all disabilities are obvious,” Helen explained. “Sight loss can sometimes be overlooked as it’s not always physically noticeable, so we think it’s amazing and a real step forward for the disabled community that The Bowgie Inn is now supporting the visually impaired. We can only hope other pubs around the UK will follow The Bowgie’s example.”
Samantha Rosa Britain, a user of EasyAccessibility’s RoomMate, said: “I think the RoomMate solves a great deal of access issues when it comes to toilets and accessibility for visually impaired persons. I was so excited I think I listened to the audio description three times! It was such a delight to be able to access the toilet independently.”
The Bowgie’s Sally added: “It just means everything to be able to cater to every single one of our visitors. Simply put, one of The Bowgie’s main goals is to be a pub where everyone feels welcome and comfortable, a place where anyone can come to relax and have their needs well-looked after.
“As something that may often be overlooked, we feel the importance of establishing these basic facilities that are adequate for users with all disabilities, not just physical ones, is paramount to ensure every one of our visitors is happy and feels at ease. No one should have to worry about having to use the bathroom when they’re out enjoying themselves.
“We’re just so excited to be able to give these important members of The Bowgie community the dignity and independence they deserve. It’s been such a pleasure to work with Helen and Steve from EasyAccessibility, they’ve been amazing throughout the whole process and we can’t thank them enough.”