'You don’t look disabled enough to use accessible toilets' — Scope | Disability forum
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'You don’t look disabled enough to use accessible toilets'

Tori_Scope
Tori_Scope Posts: 6,030

Scope community team

The Metro: Autistic girl told ‘you don’t look disabled enough’ to use accessible toilets
Millie Collins, 15, was returning home from a shopping trip with a friend in Manchester city centre on Tuesday afternoon when she needed to use the facilities at Shudehill Interchange.

She ‘politely’ asked an attendant to open the disabled toilet but they refused.

Asked to explain why, the staff member pointed at her and said ‘well, you don’t look disabled enough’, Millie claims.
‘I told them I had special needs, that I have autism. They would not let me use it.

Millie, from the Blackley area, who is also living with foetal alcohol syndrome and extreme anxiety, showed them she was registered disabled but to no effect.

She added: ‘I showed them my hidden disability lanyard which I was wearing around my neck. They were being dead rude and I started crying. I told them I had extremely bad anxiety and that I have panic attacks if I go in the small stalls. I also showed them my disabled bus pass.'.

Eventually the attendant relented and opened the facilities – but not without making more comments about her able-bodied appearance.

Millie continued: ‘They just kept shouting at me that I didn’t look disabled enough. I was being dead polite and the only reason they let me in was because I started arguing back. Even when they unlocked the door they were still carrying on and said: “You are probably lying”. I said: “Why would I lie?”.’.

Millie says the ’embarrassing’ ordeal left her ‘very upset’ and is now ‘worried about going into town’.

After Millie’s grandmother Wendy, who is her legal guardian, complained, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) issued an apology and said it had ‘reminded staff of our policies’.

Wendy said: ‘It’s disgusting. It does highlight that people do have disabilities other than physical disabilities. There are lots and lots of people who don’t have a wheelchair who have disabilities.’.

TfGM’s head of facilities management, Howard Hartley, said: ‘I am sorry for the experience this customer had with us at Shudehill Interchange and for any distress caused. We do a lot of work to make sure everyone can use our bus stations and interchanges safely, confidently and independently and last year joined the Sunflower scheme to further support people with hidden disabilities. Unfortunately we did not meet the standards expected on this occasion and have reminded staff about our policies with regards to use of our facilities.’
Have you experienced discrimination for 'not looking disabled enough'? Have you found staff to be understanding of less visible conditions? What more could be done to raise awareness of different types of access needs?
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Comments

  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 7,508 Disability Gamechanger
    I know the area well and the attitude of all such staff at the bus exchanges and the railway stations in GM is appalling. That said, Shudehill is easily resolved by simply buying a Radar key
  • wilko
    wilko Member Posts: 2,413 Disability Gamechanger
    @mikehughescq , well said Mike, I have several radar keys one one every set of keys just in case I need to use a toilet. Bought mine on eBay cheap enough.
  • MissMarple
    MissMarple Member Posts: 106 Courageous
    edited September 28
    It's appalling behaviour from staff. You don't even need to have a mental illness, you may need the disabled toilet to change a stoma bag etc. Would they want to see the evidence that you are disabled?  :)
    I had an optician 'telling me off' once. I went there in a wheelchair but to save them the fuss I stood up and transferred into the examination chair on my own. She basically shouted at me 'Why are you in a wheelchair?' 
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 7,508 Disability Gamechanger
    The toilet is not “disabled”. It is hopefully anything but :) The toilet is accessible. 

    It is predictable behaviour from staff who, having been given a radar key to open the toilets for others, are firstly asked to make a judgement they simply don’t get the training to make, and who, secondly, often use the key for their own toilet trips. 
  • MissMarple
    MissMarple Member Posts: 106 Courageous
    The toilet is not “disabled”. It is hopefully anything but :) The toilet is accessible. 
    Well, who are we to deem a toilet non-disabled just because they don't look so? :smiley: Thanks for the correction.  :)

    I can't see why staff behave this way. I'd rather give the key to someone who doesn't actually need it than causing distress to those who do. It's not like parking. They would probably be in and out of that toilet in minutes.
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 7,508 Disability Gamechanger
    Glad you took that as intended @MissMarple

    Ultimately the issue is training. 
  • Teddybear12
    Teddybear12 Member Posts: 765 Pioneering
    As already mentioned a Radar key of your own is the answer. They are not expensive.
  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Member Posts: 1,649 Disability Gamechanger
    Do you find many places to use the radar key?  I looked into it myself but there weren't any at all in my nearest (small) town or any of the places I used to visit according to the interactive online map.
  • Teddybear12
    Teddybear12 Member Posts: 765 Pioneering
     I have never had a problem.
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 7,508 Disability Gamechanger
    Do you find many places to use the radar key?  I looked into it myself but there weren't any at all in my nearest (small) town or any of the places I used to visit according to the interactive online map.
    A full list is provided if you purchase from a legitimate source such as DR UK. It is inevitably out of date as new ones open daily. 

    However, a radar key is a good thing to have anyway because it’s persuasive to staff in coffee shops and shops which don’t use them who expect you to ask them or ask for a code. They may not see your need or your or urgency but then you flash the key; start the conversation and you’re in. 
  • lisathomas50
    lisathomas50 Posts: 4,597 Disability Gamechanger
    I was parked in a disabled bay and a man accused me of not being disabled and using a fake blue badge 
  • onebigvoice
    onebigvoice Posts: 184 Courageous
    To be quite honest once an issue like this is brought up, its OK giving an appology but as said the untimate culprit is the lack of training.
      The rules of the " Key Holder " for the company should be IF ANYONE ASKS TO USE THE DISABLED TOILETS THIS IS THE KEY TO USE.  They are not there to judge anything.  I would as a guy P****d on his shoes and said the reason I use the disabled toilet is I'm not a good shot?
      NO joking aside, the company 1. should have issued a directive to all people who have a key what there responsibilities are, 2. The person should have been repremanded severly.  3.  The company should be fined for not giving its employees Health and Safety Training that covers the job they do which is clean and service the toilets so that customers can use them safely and at any time. 
  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Member Posts: 1,649 Disability Gamechanger

    However, a radar key is a good thing to have anyway because it’s persuasive to staff in coffee shops and shops which don’t use them who expect you to ask them or ask for a code. They may not see your need or your or urgency but then you flash the key; start the conversation and you’re in. 
    Good point.  I will get one with that in mind.  :)
  • Kestral38
    Kestral38 Member Posts: 1 Listener
    I have found it to be a right of passage for people with "hidden disabilities " to be lambasted by the general public and other disabled people who should know better. During the pandemic I have been screamed at by bus drivers because I went over the sacred line to use a handrail 3 times and reported them. I was told by a partially sighted man that there was a disability hierarchy and demanded to know my medical history to justify the seat I was sat in. I think the lanyards are disgusting, it's like putting a cow bell round your neck. It's a public toilet why should you be stood their dancing like a child. I go for it anyone who challenges me gets my wrath. They get reported.
  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 12,311 Disability Gamechanger
    I have a radar key and have often used it 

    I had the opposite experience the other week.  Was waiting to go into accessible toilet at cinema which was in use 

    Literally waiting over 15 minutes but thought maybes the occupant was just legit in taking so long 

    Finally the door opened and out came 2 teenage girls who said sorry we had to come in here so we could wash and dry our hair? 
    Here to help with my experience in hunan resources and employment rights 
  • cat_hug
    cat_hug Member Posts: 147 Pioneering
    I have a radar key and usually have no issue. However, on exiting a loo for people with disabilities, one fellow who was waiting with a wheelchair user, huffed and puffed about 'people abusing the facilities'. I politely explained I have legitimate right and reason. This was met with a sarcastic ' yeah, right'. I pulled out my bus pass to show him. He still wasn't happy. I told him there are many disabilities that aren't necessarily visible and he might want to bear this in mind before jumping to conclusions.

    That happened years ago. However, more recently, I was boarding an easyjet flight to return with my daughter. I had my lanyard and fortunately, tucked into the plastic cover, I'd also affixed my card details from pacemaker clinic. ( This my NHS no. Pacemaker ref and details to clinic etc and a bar code.
    In full hearing of all the other passengers seated nearby and the ones behind me waiting to be seated, she asked me did ' I have proof to show eligibility to actually use the sunflower lanyard. I replied yes, as a matter of fact I do.
    I was made to remove it from the plastic wallet whilst being quizzed ' what is this set of numbers for? ( NHS no.) What is this ref for? Pacemaker patient ref number) why do you have lanyard?  At which point, it was becoming pretty embarrassing g as all the other passengers are staring at you like you're a suspected terrorist!! 
    My daughter was in line behind me and had recently got her own lanyard as she suffers with terrible panic attacks and anxiety.
    After witnessing how rude this woman was with me, she did not dare wear her lanyard and removed it before she got quizzed. 
    It isn't pleasant to be humiliated in such a public fashion and have to divulge personal information this way without a modicum of discretion from people who are in a position  of authority. I think employees should be trained in simple protocols about dealing with members of the public with a fisability, whether it is visible or not. I'm not sure if this particular woman was being narrow minded, s jobswortj  or what. I was more upset at the impact it had on my daughter to be honest.
    In such situations, I find it better to keep cool and answe the questions patiently ( with s little condescension thrown in if only to make them stop sn tske psuse .

    If people are genuine ignorant, the best we can hope to do is to gently guide then and education snd them as best we can xx


  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 7,508 Disability Gamechanger
    Forgive me for saying so but it’s lovely to see you commenting on something other than your case @cat_hug.
  • cat_hug
    cat_hug Member Posts: 147 Pioneering
    Haha, fair comment @mikehughescq Good to hear from you. Hope you're keeping OK? X
  • rubin16
    rubin16 Member Posts: 159 Pioneering
    I have 3 hidden disabilities and a stoma, I also have a radar key, a sunflower lanyard as well as a disabled bus pass and autism awareness card. I have had some really rude confrontations at disabled toilets before from people saying I'm not disabled or "Thats the disabled toilet you know" so much so I dread when I'm outside and have to use the facilities. I will only goto certain places now and plan before hand toilet breaks.

    Unfortunatley its been happening for years and it seems no matter what new merchandise we can get to "prove" ourselves there will always be some uneducated individuals that will say otherwise. I really do think some people see the word disabled and expect you to come out the toilet crawling on all fours before they deem you fit to use the toilet.
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 7,508 Disability Gamechanger
    I make a point of anyone wanting to talk about my right to use a “disabled toilet” rapidly having it pointed out that the toilet is accessible rather than disabled and if they didn’t know that then they probably have no right to use it. Always flummoxes idiots.
  • cat_hug
    cat_hug Member Posts: 147 Pioneering
    @mikehughescq totally out of order Mike 😉 
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 7,508 Disability Gamechanger
    A but like a lot of radar toilets then. Doors are often less than secure and the dots very difficult to read if you’re sight impaired. There have to be better options.

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