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Guest post: Having access to a toilet is a basic human right

LauraRutherfordLauraRutherford Member Posts: 16 Courageous
edited July 2017 in Guest blogs

I’ve never been a fan of public toilets. Who is? But when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go right? It sounds so simple. But this isn’t the case for half a million disabled British citizens.

My son Brody 

Young boy playing in the sea

My four-year-old disabled son Brody is incontinent. He is still wearing nappies (you can see my thoughts on this here) and is unable to use a toilet. Until very recently, we’ve been lucky - I only had one dirty nappy incident whilst out. We were at an autism friendly viewing of The Last Dinosaur. The first ASD viewing we’d been to - and possibly now the last. I was so pleased with myself for taking him because it wasn’t easy. But we had to leave because he’d been to the toilet and there was no way I was changing him on a dirty toilet floor. 77,000 germs and my precious boy lying on them? No thanks! 

Our experience with public facilities

This all changed last week though when we had no option but to change him in public. We were on holiday travelling with a car full of luggage and had literally no choice. It was a two man job, so picture a mum, dad, their disabled son and one-year-old daughter in a buggy, all crammed into a small disabled toilet. It was so small that when we left, an elderly woman tried to go in with her wheelchair and couldn’t find the space to get her carer in and shut the door. Degrading, humiliating and unacceptable. 

Another incident left us trying to change him on a baby changing table. This upset him as there was no room and the hand dryer kept going off due to his legs hanging off of the edge and us both trying to hold him and change him. Brody has sensory processing issues and isn’t a fan of loud noises, so you can just imagine that experience. 

We ended up changing him in the car boot on a rug for the rest of our holiday. Ignoring passers-by, who most likely have no idea or care about these challenges.

Basic human rights

How is this acceptable though? It’s just not. It sometimes feels like everything is a battle when you’re a SEN parent and here is a big one. We’re talking about a basic human right. It feels like there is this notion that disabled people just don’t matter. We are the minority group. These problems don’t affect your average family. So who cares? 

Some clever creator of quotes once said the disabled population is the world’s largest minority of which anyone can become part of at any time. And if the politicians and organisations who can make these changes don’t consider the disabled community now – you know one in five of us, who also pay taxes, contribute to society and have feelings – they should consider this fact. Because one day, inadequate toilet facilities might affect them or somebody they love. And let me tell you – it's heart breaking.

We can make a change

There are lots of great campaigners online trying to raise awareness of Changing Places and Space to Change facilities. Both of which are great facilities designed to make going to the toilet much easier for the disabled community. We are all fighting for the same cause – to be able to take our family members out without having to worry about lying them on a toilet floor or rushing home because there are no appropriate toilets. 

Hospital room with bed and chairsUnfortunately, there are only 833 Changing Places in the UK and with half a million people spread out across the country needing them, this just isn’t enough. 

So I ask this - please help by raising awareness of Changing Places and Space to Change. It would make such a big difference to so many people. Ignorance is bliss for many, but it really isn’t for us. We shouldn’t have to put photos on social media of children lying on toilet floors to highlight the need for these facilities. It’s common sense. And it’s discrimination.

This petition by Lorna Fillingham asks David Cameron to ensure equality of access to disabled toilets for all by making the provision of Changing Places toilets mandatory in the buildings mentioned in BS 8300:2009.

Please sign and share it.

Can you help?

If you’re in a position to do something about this (e.g. a politician, architect, facilities or estates manager) then please take action! And if you’re in my shoes, visit the Changing Places and Space to Change websites. Talk to fellow campaigners. Send the information to local places of interest. Tell them why we need this. Raise awareness.

We can choose to be affected by the world, or we can choose to affect the world.

So, let’s get going!

Have you experienced similar issues? Are you campaigning? I'd love to talk to you! 


  • JenniferUJenniferU Member Posts: 124 Courageous
    edited May 2016
    Hi Laura - great blog! I'm sure this is something loads of people on the community can relate to. 

    Martin Emery also campaigns for Changing Places, especially at football stadiums. 
  • SamanthaBuckSamanthaBuck Member Posts: 2
    Equalities Act 2010 Section 20 clearly states #reasonableadjustment Clearly states there is a DUTY TO MAKE ADJUSTMENT "The first requirement is a requirement, where a provision, criterion or practice of A's puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage." It is the Law, why are venues/places not making the adjustment?
  • claireh08claireh08 Member Posts: 1
    We need #changingplaces #spacetochange, going to the loo is not a luxury it's a necessity but for so many appropriate loos are not available so families are forced to stay home/ cut trips short and even not eat or drink so then don't need the toilet when they're out! Unacceptable in 2016!! Please support the campaign visit FB page my changing place 
  • LauraRutherfordLauraRutherford Member Posts: 16 Courageous
    Thanks everyone. You guys are awesome. We all agree that these facilities are much needed. We just need to figure out how to make the powers that be see it! We shouldn't have to though. It's just awful that in this day and age anyone can think that a toilet floor is acceptable. By saying no to making these changes, this is exactly what they are saying!
  • sazbrisdionsazbrisdion Member Posts: 3 Listener
    Beautifully written and very close to my heart! My son needs these facilities too. Why are we having to fight so hard for a basic human right? Is this really the world we have brought our lovely children into? One that believes just because they have a disability they are not worth catering for? So sad. Thank you for sharing this. X
  • challis1challis1 Member Posts: 1
    Brill write up.You are exactly right in what you are saying x
  • LauraRutherfordLauraRutherford Member Posts: 16 Courageous
    Thanks very much x
  • Martin EmeryMartin Emery Member Posts: 11 Connected
    Thanks for the Tag @JenniferU.  The #Changingplaces Campaign is so important for not just the 250,000 disabled people who need the facilities, but for there Carers and Loved ones who break there hearts, and backs everytime they lie them on the floor. 
  • CheshireCatCheshireCat Member Posts: 3 Listener
    Wow, you could be writing this about my family.  My son is five, but the size of an 8yr old, and wears nappies.  He hasn't fit onto a standard baby changing table since he was 2!  We did buy a large special needs changing mat to help the issue but I can't count how often we end up sitting on disgusting floors in dirty disabled loos, trying to change his nappy while avoiding the automatic hand dryers turning on and terrifying him.  Every time I spot somewhere with a large changing table, I write it down for future use but I would dearly love for this just not to be an issue.
  • Alex22Alex22 Member Posts: 11 Connected
    I have written a blog post about the problems with disabled toilets and how they can be solved by changing places toilets. 

    I hope this helps with the campaign :)
  • LauraRutherfordLauraRutherford Member Posts: 16 Courageous
    Thanks for sharing this Alex!
  • ZeezeeZeezee Member Posts: 80 Pioneering
    Thankyou for your blog this issue is so important it needs highlighting, because people just dont think and dont want to think or talk about it. My daughter is two and very long so this is just becoming an issue for us, especially having just had major problems when travelling to and from Butlins at Skegness. The chosen place at the moment is back car seat, I am just dreading the very dirty nappy day when the car seat will be too risky or when the back seat is full of shopping/luggage so I will definitely be joining your changing places place to change campaign. I have already been told twice that i should just change her on the toilet floor, i was absolutely horrified, the thought of lying my precious daughter on a filthy germ ridden floor to change her was heartbreaking and I know I will be in a position in the future where I won't have a choice and that makes me so angry. If anyone is planning a family day out, We just went to knowlsey safari park and the disabled changing room there was brilliant had everything from a big bed to change her on, a hoist which she doesn't need yet but good to know about, even 3 nappy bins which are foot pedal operated and a baby changing table and a toilet with lots of assistance bars on. I was very impressed but unfortunately these kind of facilities are few and far between. I just hope this issue starts to be taken seriously by the people who have the ability to make the changes or families will continue to be forced to put their already fragile children's health at risk over what is a basic human right.
  • LauraRutherfordLauraRutherford Member Posts: 16 Courageous
    Thanks for your comment and for signing Lorna Fillingham's petition. 

    Great to hear about the safari park. It makes such a difference even knowing its there if you need it. Im
    hoping our local safari park will do the same soon. They told me they're meeting with Pamis so fingers crossed! 

    Agree with everything you've said. It's awful that so many people live with this problem. 
  • ableizeableize Member Posts: 1
    ABLEize highlights the Space to Change campaign in their busy blog see

    Campaign For Disabled Nappy Changing Facilities

  • ChristopherChristopher Member Posts: 4 Listener


    Greetings from Colchester, Essex. I support the campaign for disabled nappy changing facilities and all supermarkets should stock  all sizes of nappies for children and disabled adults as I have cerebral palsy from birth.

    Wishing you all good luck with your campaign.


    Christopher Mattison

  • LauraRutherfordLauraRutherford Member Posts: 16 Courageous
    Thanks so much Christopher. Appreciate your support. Have you signed my nappy campaign? Fingers crossed something will happen there. A supermarket is sending me samples to try out but it's a slow process - but a progress nonetheless so here's hoping one problem solved!

    I'm from Leigh-on-Sea originally :smile:
  • ChristopherChristopher Member Posts: 4 Listener
    edited June 2016

    Hi Laura,

    Thank you for your message. YES I have signed your petition on your nappy campaign. I use nappies myself as my disability is to do with walking with the help of two walking sticks.

    Good to meet you.


    Christopher Mattison.

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