F*cking Coat Hooks

This is going to seem like I’m making a big deal about a small thing. And yeah, it’s a small thing. It’s a tiny thing. Bu it’s a thing that actually makes a huge difference in my life, so I want to try and do something about it. 

Here’s the thing. The thing is: Coat Hooks on Public Bathroom Doors. Everyone should know what I mean here. Women should especially know what I mean, because we use them for coats and handbags and shopping bags. People with disabilities will also especially know what I mean, because we use them for all the above, plus things like walking sticks.

When there isn’t a coat hook on the door, or it’s coat hook that I can’t reach because of my disability, I have two options. Put my coat/bags/walking stick on the floor of the public bathroom (difficult for me to reach, and gross), or wear them all while I pee. If you haven’t tried to do this, you won’t know, but it’s really bloody difficult. I only have so many hands.

Last weekend we went out for lunch and I went the bathroom and there was no hook and I just reached the end of my tether. This was a new restaurant. A coat book is a basic addition that costs very little and should be considered in all public buildings.

My friend Liz did some research and found that New Zealand does not require coat hooks in accessible toilets, or any others.

In the UK, however, building regulations specifies coat hooks at 1400mm off the ground, a shelf to put a bag on, and hooks at several heights in changing rooms or shower rooms.

Singapore requires hooks at 2 levels (similar to UK: 1500mm and 1100mm). Hong Kong also recommends 2 coat hooks, though these are at higher levels (1800mm and 1200mm)
Then again, these standards also have a requirement for cubicles for ambulant disabled people – i.e. disabled people who are not regular wheelchair users. Basically, most developed countries are miles ahead of NZ in this.
We do have a Disability Action Plan (2014-2018), and a Building Access Review happening right now. I  sent an email to the Office for Disability Issues, who are working with MBI on the project.
They responded:
“While there is no specific requirement in the Building Code for accessible coat hooks, there is a requirement in clause G1 8.3 of the Building Code that any facilities for personal hygiene provided in accessible bathrooms are accessible for people with disabilities.

You have asked about the Building Access Review.  Currently the Office of Disability Issues, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the Access Reference Group are developing a long term plan to address the issues identified in the consultation phase.  You can find out more about the review here: http://www.odi.govt.nz/what-we-do/built-environment.

One avenue you may like to think about is to write a letter to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about your concern and proposal.  This would be the most appropriate way to raise the issue of coat hooks in bathrooms.  You can write to the Ministry on this email address [email protected].”

This was a pretty good response, and Clause G1 8.3 is actually extremely comprehensive. For example:


It just seems to me if they can put this much thought and effort and research into ensuring toilets are accessible – and the fact that coat hook guidelines are already available in other countries that we could just adjust – can we not… add them in?

I also copied the email to my local council, asking them where they stand on the issue. I advised Council I am aware that this is not a legal requirement, but it would great if they could look into it for all their public buildings, and encourage local businesses to do so too. This was their (weak and predictable, but reasonable) response:
“As a BCA we are aware of the [Building Access] review but we are tasked with reviewing new building consents for compliance with the current building code. If an accessible facility is properly designed to meet the current code we can’t ask for the owner/applicant to do more work above and beyond the code. Even if it is a small item like a coat hook. It is certainly something that can be suggested to building owners by the public but we can’t ask for things beyond our requirement as a BCA to review buildings to the current requirements.”
My haphazard research suggests coat hooks cost around $5 a piece. In bulk they’d be a lot less. Installation would surely be minimal.
My first plan was to write a printable card about coat cooks and why they’re important, which I and anyone else could keep in our pockets and give to cafes or libraries or where-ever we were that didn’t have hooks. If they didn’t take action, I was then going to name them.
I have a feeling that this is more likely to result in change than emailing the Ministry, though maybe I’m just being (understandably, given past experience with dealing with government) pessimistic.
So: what do you think? Cards yes/no? If I make them, will people use them? It’s another small campaign for me and I am, I’m going to be honest, very tired – so I just want to know that it’s worth it. That I’m not going to be doing this on my own. Is that fair? I hope so. I don’t expect you to care about it as  much as I do. But a little help would be much appreciated.
– WH x

5 Replies to “F*cking Coat Hooks”

  1. James

    I just had this same experience! And I can’t believe that this is not mandatory for new buildings or for a public health rating! I am so frustrated! It is disgusting to have to put clothes or bags on the ground in a public toilet then put them back on! I complained to the staff and will write a letter to the manager. So yes I am with you I will be using them. Thanks James.

  2. Liz

    Since doing the research I have been noticing even more than usual when there are no hooks.. hmu if you want any help with cards (especially as I know you’re busy for next few months).

  3. Mark J Curtis

    I have recently been told we cannot have coat hooks in our hospital consulting rooms due to risk of ‘hanging ‘
    Does anyone recognise this as a real building regulation, please?

  4. Chris

    I looked at your story out of curiosity to see what you are complaining about. I think you make a valid point and as an architectural designer will certainly make more of an effort to consider things like hooks. Not having a disability myself I have to admit it is easy to overlook such things. Unfortunately until someone lets us know of these issues they often don’t enter our minds, too many other things to think about with an overly complicated building code in NZ.
    I know a few people on the board of the ADNZ (architectural designers nz) and will put it to them to see if they can apply some pressure at a higher level. I can’t promise anything though.

    1. writehanded Post author

      Hi Chris. Thank you so much for your response – I was surprised to see a comment on something I wrote a long time ago, but still have an issue with.

      If there’s any testimony you need to support pushing the discussion further, I would be willing to help.

      Accessibility should be a fundamental part of the building code. I understand it’s difficult to navigate, but I’m pretty sure ramp access to public buildings are a requirement – I don’t see why this should be any different. I understand that when you live an able, healthy life, you can miss these things – they don’t inconvenience you so you don’t notice. I admit I didn’t before I became ill.

      But more and more people are thinking about other people’s experiences and that gives me heart.

      So thanks again for your message.


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