You went to the zoo without calling to ask if they had a toilet your child can use?
And to the theatre?
And when travelling on the motorway?
One of the biggest difficulties you face when you cannot get out of your wheelchair without a hoist is that you can’t just go out. Because once you are out you may not be able to “go”.
Since I stopped being able to lift Adam our world has shrunk. Not just be a little bit either. It has seriously shrunk. There are so few places that we can go where we can actually “go”.
http://changingplaces.uktoiletmap.org/ is a useful resource for anyone who wishes to leave their home to go out for a day.
Just because Adam needs two simple pieces of equipment.
Staying at home is not an option. So we have to get out there and tell people what is required. It isn’t just Adam. There are hundreds of thousands of people who cannot use those slightly-larger-than-average-with-a-wheelchair-logo-on-the-door-toilets. That logo doesn’t make it possible to use them. Accessible really just means that you can get in the door. Sometimes you will not be able to close the door behind you, let alone get out of your wheelchair.
I like to think that the people who authorise the building of these disabling and unusable toilets are not meaning to exclude us from their properties. They did what they thought was needed and nobody has told them otherwise because, all too often, families are struggling so much with everyday life that they find it easier to just stay away. Those with a person who is still small enough to lift may still go and will either use the back of the car, or, somewhat horrifyingly, lay their loved one down on a mat on the toilet floor.
Would you lie on a toilet floor? Heck, most of us are cautious of even touching anything in a toilet. I am sure it wasn’t just my mother who insisted I didn’t touch anything whilst she carefully put toilet paper over the seat before letting me use it, all the while reminding me not to touch anything. We don’t need to see a picture of a person lying on a toilet floor. We all know it is a disgusting option. So why are things like this?
People like me hate causing any kind of bother. You see, we already feel that we are a bother.
Sometimes it is hard to get in a door because someone has held it open by propping a small table in front of it, or there are steps so we have to go in a different way, or there are areas that we just can’t access, or we have to ask people to move so that we can move at all.
We are aware that we stand out. There is no sneaking in quietly when you have a wheelchair.
Yet things will not change unless we speak up so I have started doing so. Filled with hope that managers of service stations, theatres, shopping centres, cinemas and anywhere else where a person might reasonably expect to be able to use a toilet have just never been made aware of the need and that they didn’t realise that their toilet facilities exclude people from using their other facilities. I have a strong belief in human kindness.
So when Adam wants to go somewhere, I contact them, explain our needs and ask if their facilities will enable us to come.
In February, Adam decided that he wanted to try Clip and Climb, based at Cornwall Services. His friends go all the time and he wanted to go to. We had not even been in before when travelling home on long journeys because the need for the toilet means you have to head straight for home. Do not pass Go and do not collect £200. It doesn’t matter how much you need a coffee, someone else needs to pee.
The manager swiftly replied to my e-mail with photos of the shiny toilet with a logo on the door. I asked if there was a larger room with a toilet in the building where we could use our own equipment if we brought it. (We are fortunate to have our own mobile hoist, very few other people have one.) With a mobile hoist though, we also need to use a supportive toilet chair. With a ceiling hoist we can manage with just a fit-for-the-job harness. We also needed to bring a folding bench and I needed to pay a carer to come along because I can’t do it on my own without a ceiling hoist.
Then there is the scene you create when you need the toilet. The manager spotted us instantly. We were the only ones there with a giant hoist, portable bench, toilet chair and child in a wheelchair. We possibly stood out.
So we made the best of things, using our equipment in a smaller than ideal space. Then I had a chat with Alex Lawson, the manager.
He had never realised what was required and understood immediately that the service station was not accessible to families like mine unless the toilet was also accessible. It needed to change.
I didn’t need to put forward a business case.
I didn’t have to plead for my son’s right to dignity.
I didn’t need to back it up with a hundred letters from other families.
One mother asked because one child could not “go” to there. One manager heard and discussed it with his bosses who are clearly people with open hearts and minds.
The new fully accessible toilet facility is going to be installed on June 16th 2016 and is expected to take just two days to be completed.
Because there really is no excuse.
Not knowing is a reason things have stayed the same.
When you know better, you do better.
Well done to Cornwall Services and thank you for caring.
We are looking forward to being able to meet friends for lunch and to enjoy a drink, safe in the knowledge that nobody in our group will go home in discomfort or feeling that they don’t matter.
I would love to say that everyone I have contacted so far has had the same response of humanity that Alex and the team at Cornwall Services gave.
I would love to.
If only it were true.
So do stop at Cornwall Services when you are passing through. They welcome everyone.