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The Importance of Changing Places | World Toilet Day 2018.

KerrythompsonKerrythompson Member Posts: 2 Connected

The following piece has been written by Lady Kerry Thompson, disability and lifestyle blogger and Changing Places Campaign, Fi Anderson, disability Mummy blogger and Transport Ambassador for MDUK, and Emma Muldoon, accessible travel blogger and Mobiloo Ambassador from Scotland. We’re a group of friends who fight a very similar battle for accessible toilets – specifically, Changing Places

World Toilet Day 2018 is coming up, and we’re here to tell you about the importance of truly accessible toilets and how Changing Places are paving the way for dignity and inclusion! 

For most people leaving their house, it's a simple task of just grabbing keys and making sure you have money and locking the door behind you - but for disabled individuals and their families, it’s a completely different scenario.

an a4 sign by euans guide attached to a red cord indicating that the cord should hang freely all the way to the floor

Just wheeling out the front door can be a military operation. Think of it like being taking a new-born out with everything but the kitchen sink. It can fill you with so much anxiety that utter panic can set in.

Is there going to be a disabled toilet big enough for me, my wheelchair and partner? Am I going to be hit on the head by a baby changing table? Are the toilets going to be clean, out of order or used as a storage cupboard? Am I going to have to limit my fluid intake? Do I need to limit how long I'm out for? What if I simply don't make it home in time? 

It's not helped by non-disabled people thinking they can use disabled toilets for their own needs, leaving dirty footprints on the floors, toilet roll everywhere, or none at all. Why is it now classed as acceptable to do this to another human being? Surely going to the toilet is everyone's basic human right?

Standard disabled toilets are outdated; a red pull cord (which are always being tied up out the way which is a big no-no, as they’re then useless if somebody falls), and a few grab rails just don't cut the mustard anymore. 

Now, we always make sure we have plenty of Euan’s Guide Red Cord Cards in our bags to hang on red emergency cords that we see tied up and out of reach in accessible toilets. Even if the cord isn’t tied up, these cards are a great way to inform people of the importance of emergency cords and why they need to hang freely all the way to the floor.

There are more and more children and adults with complex disabilities. Having a hoist is a must, and having space to move around either side of the loo (as not everyone transfers on the same side) and for those needing two carers and a height adjustable changing bench.

Why are we being told we can't live our best lives just because we're disabled and there isn't a Changing Places toilet for our needs? We are just like everyone else wanting to do a day at the zoo, theme park, the seaside, see the beautiful countryside and historic buildings, watch our favourite band or singer. 

That’s when mobile accessible toilets like Mobiloo come in and saves the day, allowing us and our families to enjoy days out when establishments lack adequate accessible toilet facilities. Mobiloo can attend the event so that we don’t have to miss out on the fun or cut the day short and go home because we can’t use the toilet. However, there aren’t enough mobile accessible toilets, so businesses need to wake up and start valuing their disabled customers by providing Changing Places.

graphic reading world toilet day 2018 in blue alongside images of the three female contributors using their wheelchairs inside disabled toilets

Ask yourself these questions:

Would you, a dignified adult, happily use a dirty toilet with a broken seat, smelling like it hasn't been cleaned in a long time?

If your baby or toddler needed changing, would you use a dirty toilet floor?

Would you lie down an elderly parent or loved-one with dementia or Parkinson's that same filthy floor to deal with their continence needs? 

Or would you simply not take them out at all? 

Do you think you would need to make a choice between dignity and inclusion in society? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


  • JulesA65JulesA65 Member Posts: 33 Courageous
    My sister in law in Cornwall compaigns for this too. She has 2 disabled boys and is also part of the Deaf community in Cornwall. But the state of the nations' disabled toilets are appalling and need to be locked at all times - only to open with a RADAR key. We often find people using the toilets because its easier than using the ladies or gents. 
  • veritercveriterc Member Posts: 204 Pioneering
    I've come across scorn because I am seen coming out of a disabled toilet - but just because I can walk (shuffle) doesn't mean I don'tneed grab rails etc. So now I always limp and shuffle when coming out of a disabled toilet until I am well clear.  Sneaky, I know, but it stops having to explain my disabilities!  
  • FrankiFranki Member Posts: 1 Listener
    Great article, the conversation around accessible toilets definitely needs more attention. The introduction of Changing Places is a wonderful step forward, we just need more places to be on board with it! 

    You touched on the subject of travel which caught my eye; I recently wrote a blog on which UK airports have Changing Places available to those that need them, detailing how to gain access and where to find them.  You and your readers my find it useful when planning a trip overseas. I've linked it below if it's allowed!

  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
    Welcome to the community @Franki, and thanks for sharing!
  • NikkijNikkij Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I've so far had two had experiences, firstly a local pub i sometimes go to is used by the regulars, and to say they miss the mark is an understatement, I don't particularly want to walk through whats on the floor. So I either have to hold it in or when i can't i have to go upstairs to use the main toilets. My husband has complained in the past  but nothing changed.
    My second happened last sat, in a venue in Cardiff bay! I went to use the disabled toilet but it was in use. As this bloke came out i mentioned to him that it was for the disabled his reply was so why are you using it your only on crutches. For once I was speechless but as I couldn't find the light switch ( have to pee in the dark ) I didn't get to retort .
  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
    Welcome to the community @Nikkij, and thanks for sharing this with us. So sorry to hear about your experiences. I'm sure many others will (unfortunately!) be able to relate.
  • AndMacAndMac Member Posts: 27 Pioneering
    The other week, some of the regulars at the Sports Club I go to once a week decided that the floor in front of the accessible loo door was a good place to dump all their sports kitbags.
    A friend with CP was prevented from using it.
    Her husband duly blasted those responsible verbally,

    My point was that they would never, ever have blocked the door of  the Ladies or Gents loos on the opposite side of the foyer.

    So, what was the logic behind the decision to block the accessible loo?

    There were at least four people in the building at that time who were RADAR key holders, so they couldn't use 'nobody ever, ever uses it' as an excuse.
      Not that those words are acceptable as a reason, of course.
  • CuckooCuckoo Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I would love changing places for my Hyperhidrosis which is one of my (mainly) invisible disabilities.  But disabled toilets never have any seats or anywhere to hang my clothes.  I have to take off heavy layers and sling them over the door often or anywhere I can find.  HH is a very debilitating condition and often hits people with other disabilities too like MS, FM or ME
  • mossycowmossycow Member Posts: 495 Pioneering
    Yup completely agree. Part of why I loathe all this Brexit stuff is because important stuff seems forgotten. 

    Even new buildings are being built with **** not very a cesible toilets. 

    Where is the advise to give building designers and construction companies when creating new public spaces? 

    Gone apparently... 

    I've challenged myself  that why I feel well enough I falk the budings manager about the state of toilets.... Some improvements have been made and often it's just small things that make a big different like the red cord and having bars horizontally on the door. 

    People do listen and things do change... It's just that there doesn't seem to be much information and funding round... 

    "I'm trying to live like a random poem I read that ended 'to bloom where we are planted"

  • veritercveriterc Member Posts: 204 Pioneering
    Agree re hooks to hang clothes - when I was having radiotherapy had nowhere to put jacket, coat etc.  As my insurance comany was paying a lot, I pointed out surely management could afford to buy a brass hook?  Yes,they did, but they didn't like me complaining, so next day I bounced in to hang my clothes up on new hook - only to find Maintenance had thoughtfully screwed it in 2 metres high - well above my 5 ft reach! 
  • berleyberley Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I agree, disabled toilets are not fit for purpose.  I often find the toilet roll is positioned in the wrong place, too far back or on the wall behind you so you can't reach it very well. My major issue is the sinks! Why do they put those tiny sinks in disabled toilets?  Do they think we don't have hands? Also they are too low down! I do like to see the RADAR key system in place as it limits the amount of people taking advantage of disabled toilets, however I do think that if a venue uses this system they need to have some sort of signage near the entrance or bar etc so if you don't have your own key you don't make it all the way to the loo and then have to go back to reception or bar to get the key. 
  • happynotmehappynotme Member Posts: 9 Listener
    So I have Degenerative disk disease  severe dropped foot and also sudden urge fecal incontinence and have accedents and have to clean up and change I use crutches you can not do this in a small WC cubicle there are far to few public toilets and disabled toilets 
  • grandma46grandma46 Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Keep up the campaign. Just had a response from my MP. Government putting money aside for changing places on motorways and funding map of where changing places available nationally. Also looking into building regs for public buildings new builds etc. 
    Pity they cant legislate for public opinion/consideration.
  • DavidJDavidJ Member Posts: 51 Pioneering
    I had an e mail last week I think it was from [email protected] asking about my experience with disabled toilets !!
    Having being disabled for about 18 years give or take you can bet I have plenty .
    First of all my background .I spent a long time in the military so have a weird sense of humour .
    Secondly I am a Yorkshire man and I say it as I see it .
    I use a wheelchair to get around but do have all four limbs !
    Its my body that’s kn*****ed not my head.I am 70 years young and try not to rely on others for help .
    I hate baby changing facilities in disabled toilets !!
    So here is my first escapade:-
    I was in a well known supermarket and suddenly had the urge to go to the toilet ! I have an EPV which makes me independent so I shot off to the toilet .Lo and behold it was occupied . So I parked up outside and waited . ( I can’t wait long ) people were coming and going to the other loos and I was getting funny looks !! Probably because I was lurking !!!!
    I could smell smoke and I knew it was cigarette smoke . I could see some of it coming out of a little ventilation slit just above the door .So I knocked on the door and asked if everything was ok . I got a garbled answer so I shot off to customer service and told the lady there that there might be a problem in the disabled loo and she better bring a fire extinguisher. So she and a male colleague went running down the store to the toilets with extinguisher in hand . When I caught them up they had tried to open the door with a “key” as the person inside hadn’t answered I think .
    The door came flying open along with a cloud of smoke !!!
    Two people were inside one  sat on the loo and the other on the waste bin ..They had tried blowing smoke through the ventilation but it was sucking air in not out . Fortunately they were fully dressed and ran when they saw several people staring at them through the open door !!!
    I almost wet myself on the spot !! 
    As they ran they apologised saying it was raining outside!!
    I eventually got in and was able to go !! 
    One of several tales when I remember them 
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