The alternative “Dear Zoo”

We love the Rod Campbell book ‘Dear Zoo’. It is a fabulous book and it gave us hope when I wrote to the zoo…

I wrote to the zoo to ask for a toilet (29th February 2016, to be precise)
They didn’t reply.
I was sad.

A friend posted on their Facebook page.
She’d had to change her daughter on the toilet floor.
They replied saying nobody had complained before!

I raised my hand, in Facebook land,
And told them that I had indeed
Written about our need to pee.

In August, I wrote to the zoo to ask for a toilet,
They called me back.
They said that we would keep in touch!

In September I wrote to the zoo to discuss a toilet.
I told them a charity had offered to help.
A meeting was mentioned and I had hope.

I asked if a company could visit and give a no-cost quote,
They were in the area.
There was no reply.

In September I wrote to the zoo to ask for the meeting.
People were away.
I held on to hope.

October came and I wrote to the zoo.
They didn’t reply.
I was sad.


Late October we visited the zoo to deliver a letter by hand.
We couldn’t stay long and they didn’t reply.
My son was sad.

I wrote a blog and the zoo responded.
They know, they care, they need funding.
Hope was back.

In November a local charity wrote to the zoo to offer to help.
They did not reply.
The charity was sad.

Late November I wrote to the zoo to ask for an update.
They didn’t reply.
I felt sad.

In January I wrote to the zoo to ask for a toilet.
I mentioned the charity offering to help.
They did not reply.
I was sad.

In February I wrote to the zoo. (Twice and very politely!)
A year has passed since I first asked.
They did not reply.
I am still sad.

Is it really too much to ask?
A toilet with room to get in and shut the door.
And a bench and a hoist instead of the floor.

The Rod Campbell book was definitely more cheerful.

And that zoo responded quickly every time!

I am not trying to upset the zoo but my son is hurting, as are other children across the country.

Disabled children want to visit the zoo.

They want to eat in the zoo café.

They want to spend their money in the gift shop.

Maybe some would like to be a keeper for the day?

They just want to be children and to do what other children do.

Whether you walk or use wheels, everyone should be able to enjoy wandering around the zoo and it is so very sad that something as simple as a toilet with a hoist and bench is stopping so many from enjoying a safe and dignified day out.

It really isn’t fancy equipment.
It doesn’t create any insurance difficulties for a business.
It isn’t expensive to maintain.

But it makes a difference to the lives of so many.

It isn’t just my son.
But he keeps asking.
And he keeps hurting.

So I will keep on writing to the zoo.
Maybe you could write to them too?

Update! (17/03/17)

The power of social media never ceases to amaze me.

I would like to thank everyone who wrote to the zoo.
You made a difference.

Here is the reply, with my notations in red.

“Thank you for getting back in contact. I know that you have been talking to Newquay Zoo on and off for many months now regarding a disabled toilet with a hoist. (More of a one-sided pen-pal relationship)

With only one of these in the whole of Cornwall, (No idea where that number came from, there are 10 with more opening soon) it must be a frustrating state of affairs for you and your son. Newquay Zoo has two disabled toilets. (Agree, they completely disabled my son) We are very keen to do whatever we can to improve them further. As you can imagine, building a brand new toilet facility takes a lot of time and money. Sadly, we cannot simply add a hoist to either of our current loos, as there’s no room. Nor do we have the space to expand the current loos to accommodate a hoist. (Without having experts in, that is difficult to judge. I have watch the experts in action and they see possibilities which others miss and space to expand can usually be found with a little creative thinking.)

However, we have made progress. I hope you’ll be pleased to learn that we have been working closely with Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme (CAAP). With their help, we have arranged for a mobile hoist toilet to come to Newquay all the way from Gloucestershire. The Mobiloo will be at Newquay Zoo on 10th April. (All credit must go to CAAP, which is a fantastic charity. For those who don’t know CAAP organises holiday activities for disabled children who would find it hard to access mainstream activities. They also arrange days which enable families with disabled children to come together and feel a little less alone. I have already been speaking with the team at CAAP about the children who cannot join in without toilet facilities with a hoist and bench. They immediately understood and decided to do everything possible to make it possible for all disabled children to join in, regardless of how they use a toilet. So, earlier this year, I put them in touch with Mobiloo and CAAP have arranged and paid for the hire cost of this facility.)

On that day, we’d love to welcome yourself, your son and any other families who wish to visit us knowing that these facilities are in place. I would also like to meet with you face-to-face to discuss the matter. I will be calling you to see if we can arrange a date that best suits you. The issue of hoist toilets is rather bigger than this one small attraction, (absolutely, so hopefully they will be advising other attractions of this) but we are keen to do what we can to help you. (And hundreds of thousands of others, many of whom will be laid on their toilet floor today or using a commode in the back of a car in their car park.) 

Many thanks”

I am hopeful that the zoo will realise that disabled people really do matter and that, merely having a toilet with a wheelchair logo on the door doesn’t mean wheelchair users can use it. Several people have added comments to their social media page and I am particularly touched to read comments from people who don’t need the facility themselves but who are 100% behind the need for them and the responsibility of attractions to provide them.

That makes such a difference and I am thankful to everyone who has shown compassion and interest.

I am also very thankful to Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme.

Finally, this isn’t just an issue of one child and one attraction.

Wherever you live there will be people with the same needs as Adam.
People who are often hidden from life because going out is often too hard. So please contact your own zoo and other attractions near you to ask if they have heard of Changing Places toilets or Space to Change toilets which really can be fitted into most spaces, even small ones.

We all have a part to play when it comes to accessibility and inclusion.

When you know better, you do better.


Further Update 09/04/18

Sadly, despite the positive response from them a year ago, NOTHING has changed and I have so far not even been able to get an answer as to whether they want the sizeable donation offered by the charity mentioned.

Many people are massively disappointed.


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