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Field test of a user friendly toilet prototype (FRR)

Published on: 17/01/2009
Most of today’s toilets in Europe do not meet the actual needs of persons with functional impairments. A quantitative study in several European countries (more than 350 persons) showed that 36% of the respondents can hardly leave home due to lack of adequate toilet facilities. The aim of the FRR project was to develop a more user friendly toilet system. This was done applying a user centred approach, meaning that disabled persons and older people were intensively involved in the project via user boards, focus groups and prototype testing. Ethical guidelines were developed and followed in order to protect the rights of vulnerable users involved in the project.

Policy Context

Field Trial of a smart toilet as part of the EU funded project FRR project "Friendly Rest Rooms for Elderly and Disabled Persons" - Contract: QLK6-CT-2001-00458

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Five iterative prototypes were designed, built and tested by disabled and elderly persons and their carers. The prototypes contained the following modules: height and tilt adjust-able toilet bowl, transfer seat with “wings”, vertical and horizontal grip bars, movable comfort wash basin, multilingual speech control, speech output and touch screen interface as well as smart card detection to automatically adapt the toilet to the user’s preferences. Users and carers at a day care centre for multiple sclerosis tested one prototype for two months in a real life environment with very positive results. This new type of toilet system enables the users to gain greater autonomy, independence, self-esteem, dignity, safety and a better quality of life. A basic product version is on the market since 2006.

Technology solution

Technology choice: Proprietary technology, Standards-based technology, Mainly (or only) open standards

Main results, benefits and impacts

The field test was carried out from December 2004 to February 2005 with a total duration of 59 days, thereof (due to holidays and weekends) 39 days with usage of the toilet. 29 primary users (MS patients) and 12 secondary users (nurses) participated. 316 toilet sessions took place, whereof 149 (47.2%) could be identified via RFID cards. Number of toileting events per day: min 2, max 14, average 8.1. The toilet tilt was moved between 0 degrees and 6.5 degrees, the height of the toilet between 43.6 cm and 67.9 cm. Outcome measurement based on QUEST delivered satisfaction rate of approx. 80%. The MS patients experienced increased autonomy and a higher level of dignity (e.g. being able to autonomously call the nurse via held remote control), and increased safety (e.g. better contact between feet and floor due to adjustable height).

Return on investment

Return on investment: €5-15,000

Track record of sharing

Final Conference including presentation of users' experiences from field trial with smart toilet system N. Gentile, G. Edelmayer, C. Dayé, P. Mayer, P. Panek: FRR field test - Real life test at a day care centre, presentation during Final Conference of Friendly Rest Room (FRR) project consortium, Caritas Socialis, Vienna, March 17th, 2005,… S. Adolf, B. Fink, A. Freist, R. Rosenthal, C. Pauli, R. Schlathau: Voices of the Users, presentation during Final Conference of Friendly Rest Room (FRR) project consortium, Caritas Socialis, Vienna, March 17th, 2005,… German Press Release of Caritas Socialis "Mehr Selbständigkeit durch Toilette mit Hirn" Further reports in media, please see The toilet system in the day care centre still is in use. It also was presented on the smart home exhibition space of the European Commission on the e-inclusion Ministerial Conference in Vienna, Nov 30 - Dec 2, 2008…

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1: The possibilty of the toilet to adjust itself to different height and tilt according to individual users' needs and the integrated ICT features actually were useful from point of view of users in the day to day living situation. Lesson 2: Benefits are not only for primary users (in this case persons with MS and elderly persons) but also for secondary users (carers, in this case professional carers) and tertiary users (in this care financing institution, here the day care centre) Lesson 3: Once again the high value of invovlving users in the design and development process right from the beginning could be proven. Scope: National