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  • Writer's pictureYK CHEUNG

How to Translate 'Accessible Toilets'?

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

In Hong Kong, the toilets specially designed for wheelchair users had been known as ‘disabled toilets’ for a long time. The Chinese version usually read '傷殘人士廁所'. Starting probably the second decade of this century, substitutes ‘accessible toilets’ in English and 暢通易達洗手間 in Chinese began to find their presence.

The new designation, which is obviously for the sake of euphemism, is well-intended and understandable, for understatement is not uncommon in English, British English in particular. Moreover, one of the strategies to be polite in English is to deflect the attention from the addressee to an object. As a matter of fact, furthermore, 'easy to use or obtain' is indeed one of the senses of the word, along with the popular sense 'easy to reach' in this example. Nevertheless, the Chinese version makes strange reading as it is unnecessarily long. Moreover, there does not seem to be any word which encapsulates these two senses in this language.

Needless to say, it is a right approach to name the facility with reference to its physical characteristic. To avoid the above-mentioned problem, a better solution is to put the focus not on its accessibility, but on its size.


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