Can I use a RADAR key abroad?

You may have heard about RADAR keys, which can be used to unlock accessible toilets throughout the UK. In this article, disabled journalist Ian Cook explores whether you can use a RADAR key when travelling abroad in Europe – and what other options are available to you.

If you need to use an accessible toilet, you will likely know about RADAR keys. The RADAR key is a universal key which unlocks over 9000 accessible toilets across the UK, helping you to access locked public toilets without needing to ask a member of staff to let you in.

RADAR keys can be purchased for about £5, and you can also buy a guide which shows you all of the places you can use your key in various regions of the UK.

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Everything is fairly straightforward as far as the UK is concerned, but what about travelling abroad? This article will look at whether RADAR keys can be used abroad, and what other options there are for finding accessible toilets.

Do RADAR toilet keys work abroad?

No, unfortunately RADAR keys can only be used in the UK. However, if you are planning to travel to Europe, you may hear about an equivalent key called a Euro-key. This is a European toilet key and it costs €25 plus shipping – so is quite a bit more expensive than a RADAR key. 

How does the European Disabled Toilet Key (Euro-key) work?

The European disabled toilet key (Euro-key) allows people with disabilities to open designated accessible toilets and lifts in continental Europe. You can use the key to access these facilities at stations, shopping centres and museums.

The Euro-key is provided by CBF-Darmstadt, a self-help association for disabled people based in the German town of Darmstadt (located near Frankfurt). The Euro-key has been adopted by other European countries and has effectively become the standard continental key for opening accessible toilets. 

The Euro-key can be used in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The key fits about 12,000 locks throughout these countries, and there are more locations that will start using it as the years roll by.

Can I get a Euro-key?

Unfortunately, you can’t get the Euro-key if you need it sent to the UK. It used to be possible, but the Euro-key provider has said that they are no longer able to ship to the UK anymore. The Disabled Accessible Travel website explains that “after Brexit, CBF does not have an acceptable option to ship to the UK anymore. Therefore, unfortunately they have had to discontinue delivery to the UK.”

Finding this hard to believe, I phoned the German Euro key provider CBF Darmstadt and asked for an explanation. This is what I was told in an email: 

“We can’t send these to the UK anymore because of Brexit. It would now require lots of customs forms and taxes to send one key to the UK.” 

This sad news begs the question: how can I, a disabled British holidaymaker, find an accessible loo when visiting Europe (outside the accessible accommodation I am staying)?

Alternative options

I initially thought that you might be to apply for a Euro-key after arriving at your holiday address and ask for the key to be sent there. But there is currently a one-month delivery time when you try to order a Euro-key, so you would need to order it several weeks before your trip and arrange with the hotel to keep it for you for when you arrive.

Another more practical option would be to visit the Disabled Accessible Travel website and download their free user-led app Accessaloo, where you can find accessible toilets across Europe.

The Accessaloo app also shows accessible toilets that do not need a key, i.e. in restaurants, coffee shops and hotels, but which might use the key code system or have a key to the loo behind the counter.

You can download the Accessaloo app for free as I have done – it’s available on the App Store and on Google Play.

My advice to disabled holidaymakers

My advice to any disabled holidaymaker going abroad would therefore be to download the Accessaloo app before you travel. There is no harm in adapting your route according to what is available.  If you are worried about finding accessible loos, you might want to apply for the Euro-key in advance if your accommodation is happy to keep it for you. There is absolutely no harm in having a plan A and a plan B.

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