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Toyota’s accessible toilet breaks mobility barriers

Mobility for all starts with the most basic needs
An unexpected request from wheelchair users propelled the development of a mobile accessible toilet following Toyota’s genchi genbutsu principle

Easing mobility burdens

Our Vision Design Division was caught by surprise when, in 2019, they received an unexpected request to make a mobile toilet. This petition came from the division in charge of social contribution activities and was propelled by wheelchair users’ wish to, even with disabilities, travel freely. People use toilets from five to seven times a day on average. Which means that the absence of a toilet can be more than just a minor inconvenience. At Toyota we believe disabilities should not be a burden to mobility, and, therefore, the challenge was accepted, a unique project was launched. 

The perfect example of Genchi Genbutsu

The first step was to make a prototype model for wheelchair users to try. From that, an array of unanticipated feedback was received. For example, at first, we decided on a light grey shade for the floor. We soon came to learn that users were put off by how easily tyre tracks showed in the bright surface. Some users without sensation in their feet reported that transferring from the wheelchair to the toilet could be dangerous if the floor didn’t have a texture. This experience served as a reminder of Toyota’s cornerstone of product creation, Genchi Genbutsu (learn through direct observation and feedback).
“When we received a request for a mobile toilet from the Corporate Citizenship Division, our goal wasn't just to make the concept a reality. We aimed to go a step further, exploring how we could add value to this solution. In my view, this kind of deep exploration is what truly defines design.”
said the Project General Manager, Noriyo Inagaki.

Full accessibility through design

The toilet had to be towable even by someone with a standard driver’s license. For that, it had to be not only lightweight but narrow and compact. Expert automotive designers came into play managing to distribute the space efficiently. Thought was put in every detail: outward curved handrails for the chair to turn 360, ramp to extend from the side to avoid taking much road space and provide privacy... In line with customer request, designers created a subtle exterior to blend with the surroundings. 

Collaboration for innovation

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games served as a test ground, but the team found out that the toilet’s water usage was double than estimated and installing a larger tank was not possible due to the limited space. Research led them to the water-efficient toilets in Shinkansen bullet trains and collaboration broadened the team’s horizons. Also, to maintain the vehicle’s structural integrity while reducing its weight, the team consulted on lightweight materials commonly used in refrigerated truck containers. In November 2022, the toilet made its debut at WRC, still gathering feedback for further improvements.