Dire Need For Accessible Bathrooms in Lagos.
Lagos, where we call home, has a population of just over 30,000 residents living here year round.
In 2019, 5 million people visited the Algarve, according to the Portugal Resident. In August it gets difficult to navigate my mobility scooter in the Historic Center.
Summer is also when the city puts on outdoor concerts and festivals that bring residents from the neighboring villages as well as our holiday visitors. It is great fun except when “nature calls”. The bathroom situation is difficult for everyone and tragic for the disabled.
The public bathroom next to the police station and off Praça Gil Eanes has a ramp and large handicapped bathroom. It closes at 8pm, but the Praça stays open and is busy until late at night. A big problem is the security and cleaning of the bathroom. Usually scary and dirty, there is rarely someone taking care of stocking the essentials and keeping it clean. My jacket was stolen when I used it. Often, 3 or 4 people stumble out of the larger accessible bathroom, looks like it is a good place to indulge in their drug of choice.
Praça Infante is a large town square with beautiful fountains and a view of the ocean. This is where Lagos holds large concerts, dances and events in the summer, and a great New Year’s Party complete with popular Portuguese entertainment and fireworks. Next to the Praça is a large wooden veranda above the parking garage. When this was built a very large clean bathroom was included. But, it is always locked. Even on New Years Eve it was locked. There is a new sign this year that says the bathroom is exclusive for parking garage clients, I can’t use a car with my disability. With a wheelchair or mobility scooter where am I to go? Able bodied people can sneak into a café, I have to hide in a corner of the parking garage and hope no one sees me. Last New Year’s Eve the city had Portable toilets for the event but they were not accessible. A solution would be for the city or management to issue a pass for disabled residents to use these facilities.
The Marina in Lagos has a very popular café scene, pretty boats, good views of Lagos and live music, the handicapped bathroom is locked. To get the key I need to find the security guard by asking staff at the restaurants to call or get the phone number from the bathroom door. I once waited over twenty minutes to get the key. A very simple solution would be to have each restaurant keep a copy of the key or simply leave the bathroom unlocked during business hours.
There is a similar issue at the train station. In order to use handicapped bathroom, I need to request the key from the ticket counter. When there is a line at the counter it can take a long time to get that key, and relief. Why not leave it open.
Praia da Batata the city beach has an accessible bathroom but it is only open in the summer.
The Cultural Center and the modern County council building are completely accessible and easy to use. All the supermarkets such as Pingo Doce and Continente have very good bathrooms, clean and with independent access.
Why do able bodied people have no problem finding a place to go while I have to be humiliated and find an empty corner of a parking garage for comfort.
I encourage both public and private entities in Lagos to do more to ensure equal autonomous access with dignity to the most basic human need. Which means no waiting.
Note: In July of 2015 I wrote to the county council regarding the fact that the public bathroom in the historic center was closed in the evenings. They referred me to the department of urban services who took months to look into the matter and conclude there was no funding to keep it open later. We have since spoken with the city Mayor about this problem. At the time of writing as the city slowly reopens from the pandemic lockdown the only public bathroom in the center is closed for maintenance.