After my recent telephone call with the General Manager from Lands End I was struggling to find a way to keep campaigning.
Hearing someone say that they accept that your child will continue to be excluded from their venue (a famous UK landmark) until they change their toilet facilities, but that they have decided not to do it, truly hurts.
Comments on various social media pages show that many others have also had an awful experience there and been ignored too. That truly hurts, for they know it is not just one or two people, they are aware of the huge number of people this affects. And they know that not making a change doesn’t just make visiting difficult – it makes it impossible.
My son is 10 years old and his body doesn’t work quite like he wishes it would. He can’t stand or walk at all and is wobbly in a sitting position but he is working hard on that skill.
But those things don’t stop him from wanting to go out. It doesn’t stop him wanting to see a film at the cinema or a show at the theatre. If your legs didn’t work well any more would you want to stay at home forever or would you want to make the most of every day? Would you still want to go out for lunch or be able to have a drink on a long journey? Would you still want to enjoy days out with your family?
A recent statement from Penny Mordaunt MP and Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health at the Department for Work and Pensions, gave me a little bit of hope. You can read it HERE in full, but these are the parts which stood out for me.
“This week I was outraged to hear of Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike’s awful experience on a train that lacked a working accessible toilet.
It’s absolutely essential that businesses – from train companies to shops and restaurants – make disabled access a priority.
I commend her for speaking up and I’m looking at better ways to enforce the Equalities Act to ensure people aren’t forced to suffer these kinds of indignities.”
I also liked her statement that “Businesses can and must do more”, but was a little worried that she didn’t mean it for ALL disabled people.
So I asked her, via Twitter, if that included people who need a bench and hoist in order to access the toilet.
I didn’t expect a reply but she did reply with an emphatic “yes it does!!” and I have a little hope once again.
For really, this is what is needed.
Recognition from those in Parliament and a determination to bring change.
We can do our best to plead for inclusion one toilet at a time but it is time for legislation to protect people.
Currently, using the Equality Act is difficult, costly and hugely stressful. Action can only be taken by the person who feels discriminated against and, when you have just been treated badly, you might not feel bold enough to go forward with legal action against a big company.
Just recently a friend received some very hateful messages suggesting that her son (who also needs a hoist and bench in order to use the toilet) should just stay at home! And that was the nicer part of the message.
I am in awe of her strength to keep strong in the face of such hateful words but she has passed the e-mails to the police and is carrying on. Not just for her son but also for all the other people who need someone like her to speak up for them.
Tomorrow morning YOU could wake up unable to use your legs, or without the strength to walk. Next week it might be YOU who gets the news that you have a progressive and disabling condition.
Wouldn’t you want to grab hold of life tightly and live it to the fullest?