Guest post: Having access to a toilet is a basic human right
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
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.
Unfortunately, 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!