We all need to ‘go’: The case for more truly accessible toilets — Scope | Disability forum
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We all need to ‘go’: The case for more truly accessible toilets

ordinaryhopes
ordinaryhopes Member Posts: 2 Courageous

Adam is 10-years old and my son. Like any parent, I adore my child and would do anything for him.

Which comes in handy as he needs assistance with everything he wants to do. He cannot sit unaided or stand and needs help with every part of life. 

Going out has always been a challenge. Those “disabled toilets” marked with the logo of a wheelchair user actually tend to be inaccessible to a lot of wheelchair users.

Adam in his wheelchair

 Some people need a hoist, many need a changing bench, and others require adequate space in order to get their wheelchair alongside or in front of the toilet in order to self-transfer using the handrails. Extra space, enough to turn a powered chair, is vital. Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK need Changing Places toilets – that is, an accessible toilet equipped with an adjustable changing bench, a hoist, a privacy screen and enough room for a disabled person, their chair and up to two carers.

 Adam needs a hoist in order to get him out of his chair and a bench to lay down on for me to sort his clothes and switch to his toileting sling before hoisting him to the toilet. I used to lift him, till I hurt my back very badly. I was unable to walk for a while, could not drive the car for several months and I could not push Adam’s wheelchair at all for a year. Even now, I can only manage short distances and only on level ground. I don’t think I will ever be able to lift him again.

 So we can only have full days out at places where they have toilet facilities with a changing bench and a hoist. Adam’s world has shrunk and he knows it.

 Disabled by toilets

 Every day starts the same. Adam asks where we are going today and, if we are going somewhere, the next question is always “Do they have a toilet I can use?”

A small disabled toilet with inadequate space

  A few months ago I was lost for an excuse as to why we would not be staying long enough to need the toilet and I just said “sadly not”. My son looked at me and asked “Why not?”Two simple words which changed my outlook.

 I had accepted that this was our lot in life. I had accepted that we were effectively excluded from most places. At the end of the day, you don’t visit somewhere in order to use their toilet but being able to use their toilet is what enables you to visit.

 I expect toilet facilities to be in place for me when I go out. Why shouldn’t Adam expect to use the toilet too? Disability isn’t new. People have been disabled by inadequate facilities for too long.

 I want my son to know that he matters. He needs to live a full life.

 We can change the world, one toilet at a time

 I asked Adam where he wanted to go and decided to ask those businesses to make improvements. The first place he wanted to go to was Cornwall Services! I know, not the first place you would think a child would ask for but many of his friends met there regularly for lunch and to play. It is a great service station but Adam couldn’t “go” there.

 When I spoke with the manager it was clear from the look in his eyes that he understood. He had never before questioned what might be needed but suddenly he realised that he hadn’t actually seen any wheelchair users going into their “disabled toilets”. Now he knew why.

 Within three months they opened a brand new accessible toilet with a full-sized changing bench and ceiling hoist. Adam was beyond thrilled! As were his friends. These facilities are not just about the user, family and friends are affected too.

Large accessible toilet

That response gave me the courage to approach more businesses. I started writing a blog to help get the message out to a wider audience, as a way to really share why these facilities are needed and as way of recording progress.


It is called Ordinary Hopes because that is what we have.

Knowing what is needed is the first step

I started by contacting every place that Adam wished to visit. Now I will contact those places that I would like to take him. Then it will be every other place where most people would expect to use the toilet, because everywhere should be accessible.

 One more local attraction in Cornwall, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, is 100% committed to installing a Changing Places toilet. Four others are actively looking into it and want to get it sorted by next summer. Others are in the early stages but are considering it.

The common factor among all the business I have been in contact with is that they simply didn’t know what was needed. Once they knew, they wanted to help.

 When you go out, have a look inside that mystical toilet with a logo on the door and ask yourself how a wheelchair user who could not stand at all would use the toilet. Speak to the manager, ask them if they have ever thought about it and suggest they Google 'Changing Places' toilets.

One person can make a difference – imagine what we can do together.

This guest post was written by Rachel George. You can read more of her ongoing quest to make toilets more accessible over at Ordinary Hopes.

Have you experienced problems with the accessibility of disabled toilets? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments

  • quinrah
    quinrah Member Posts: 22 Courageous
    I couldn't agree more that people have been disabled by inadequate facilities for too long. This is such an important issue and something I'm personally committed to raising as much awareness about as possible. Thank you for sharing your story @ordinaryhopes
  • ordinaryhopes
    ordinaryhopes Member Posts: 2 Courageous
    Thank you. So glad to have your support. The more people who talk about this and share the information, the better life will get.
  • BillF
    BillF Member Posts: 3 Listener
    A great post and I could not agree more. This subject needs to be talked about more. I've been in situations where I've had to return to my car and get my crutches to use (which is very difficult) as my wheelchair (standard size manual chair) just wouldn't fit into the so called accessible Council toilets as the turning area was too tight.  I emailed the Council who have agreed with me and have now budgeted to have the access modified. A small but valuable win for us disabled folk. 
  • Lizzygb
    Lizzygb Member Posts: 11 Courageous
    Agree so much. I could've written something similar! I regularly think of toilets as being the deciding factor on where to visit. I regularly drink very little and go all day without a wee just because the place I've been has no facilities.
  • hdeakin
    hdeakin Member Posts: 126 Pioneering
     A wonderful blog post ordinary hopes. I could not agree more. It is not fair on Adam and all the other disabled people out there that we are limited on where we can go because of accessible toilets. The changing places are great and make such a difference.
    Some 'disabled' toilets are so inaccessible I feel that they have just had a wheelchair symbol stuck on the front so they can 'say' they have one and not look bad in not having one! Sometimes I have not even been able to shut the door it has been so small.
    It is great you are getting positive responses and people are trying to do something about it. Well done!
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  • sue66
    sue66 Member Posts: 124 Pioneering
    In our town all they are doing is closing down the toilets so having to rely on supermarket ones.  Im not a wheelchair user but got bladder problems and last things we need is closure! 
  • Rebeiro1
    Rebeiro1 Member Posts: 3 Listener

    Thank you so much for sharing this, aside from being informative and educational, it was an incredibly moving piece.

    I am currently looking into this very topic, I work in a facilities department for a leading children's hospital and am trying to develop my understanding of some of the challenges and obstacles faced when using an accessible toilet. 

    I will be taking a lot of what you have said on board and using it to better understand how we can improve our facilities.

    Additionally I will be going straight to your website to read more after this!


    Thank you so much once again for sharing.

    Kindest regards,


    Shawn

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