People who need to use accessible toilets will know that many of them in the UK are fitted with a Nicholls & Clarke (N&C) Phlexicare RADAR National Key Scheme lock, which can only be opened with a Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) key.

What is a RADAR key?

Disability Rights UK, worked in partnership with Nicholls & Clarke, National Key Scheme (NKS). The first RADAR locks were fitted in 1981 to help keep accessible toilets free and clean for disabled people.

Before RADAR locks were introduced, many establishments locked the accessible toilet themselves which meant that disabled people could only use the toilet on request. It also sometimes seemed to be the case that the key couldn’t be located by the staff member, or the person who had it wasn’t on duty that day. Fortunately, the introduction of the NKS meant disabled people could now use the toilet without having to ask someone if they could be let in.

Using your RADAR key

Although over 400 local authorities use the NKS, as well as many public, voluntary and commercial organisations there are still plenty of places that don’t and where this is the case users frequently encounter people rushing out of the toilet looking rather flustered and embarrassed when they see someone waiting. However, it is always worth pointing out that not everyone using an accessible toilet looks disabled, as the person could have a non-visible disability, such as a colostomy bag, which means they need to use these toilets just as much as anyone. There are also still some establishments using their own locks, so you may find in these cases that you still have to ask to use the toilet.

How to get a RADAR key

In order to gain access to a toilet with a RADAR lock you will need a RADAR key. Most local authorities will sell or give you a RADAR key or you can buy one online. If you do buy your RADAR key online you’ll be faced with many different websites selling RADAR keys. Many of them claim to be genuine; however, if it is not the official N&C Phlexicare key it is not a RADAR key, according to Disability Rights living and providing free information and advice to disabled people throughout the UK.

The newer style RADAR keys have a blue heart fob

RADAR keys can be purchased at a large range of outlets including Disability Rights UK and the Blue Badge Company and if you are a disabled person you should be able to buy the key VAT free. RADAR keys cost about £4.50, but some local authorities do give them away free of charge. An NKS guide which lists the location of RADAR toilets for different regions is available to purchase from Disability Rights UK.

However, N&C Phlexicare have said that a new electronically operated door system is being introduced in the near future which is fantastic news and something to look out for!