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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

93 thoughts on “The alternative “Dear Zoo”

  1. It’s not just the children in the wheelchairs that miss out on going for a trip to the zoo , it’s the siblings of that child . If it’s not suitable for 1 member of the family then it’s not suitable for a family day out . Makes me so cross as well as sad for my children that family days out can’t be done . Children in wheelchairs have very limited fun days out . Imagine how tricky it is to have a day out and there not being a toilet. Some people clearly don’t care about others . And unless you are in the situation then I wouldn’t expect them to think about it . But when a letter has been repeatedly sent and help to fund has been offered then what is the reason for not building the toilet room !!!!!!!!

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  2. Come on Newquay zoo! Wheel chair users are dis- abled by an environment which is not enabling, does not have the facilities to EnAble wheelchair users to enjoy the same activities as everyone else. The same point as other comment, siblings miss out and trying to find placed to meet up with my friend and children one of which is a wheelchair user is frustratingly difficult in today’s world!

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    1. Absolutely. The current “disabled toilet” is entirely disabling to many.

      Removing comments on their social media page (which they have done on many occasions) is not kind or compassionate to people.

      Far better to organise a few companies to come in and give quotes.

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  3. I can understand why you feel so sad and why your son feels so sad. It is horrific that you have had to campaign so tirelessly just to get proper sanitation for people with disabilities. I am always struck by how difficult it must be for disabled people – adults and children. Good luck and I hope you get to the zoo soon. Pen x #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an important issue – every person should be able to go out and about not worrying about where and how they will be able to go to the toilet. I hope the zoo does provide fully accessible toilets soon. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your Dear Zoo analogy, but hate the sloooooowww progress 😦
    Our family also could not visit Newquay Zoo for a day out as my daughter cannot not use that kind of accessible toilet.
    #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And it is such a shame because Newquay Zoo is a wonderful place to visit. Back when Adam could be lifted to the toilet in the back of our car (horrible, I know, but I was doing the best I could) we used to go a few times each month and and always loved the food in the cafe. We miss it. I wish they missed us too.

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  6. So sorry that you and your son are having these experiences. Maybe the zoo can start a fundraising campaign to help build the proper facilities for individuals with different abilities. At least there is some progress because of your efforts. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least they are open to discussion at long last. After more than a year since being asked, they have said we will meet.

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  7. I am so glad that the community here is rallying around and standing with you for change!!! Social media at its finest 🙂 good on you mama for being so persistent!! Your son is blessed indeed 💕 #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am truly touched by the support of local people and those from further afield. It is particularly heart warming to read the comments on their social media pages from people saying that they don’t need the facilities themselves but they utterly believe that the zoo should have them.

      At he end of the day, they should have responded better, especially when I had a sizeable amount of funding ready to go.

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    1. Thank you. My son’s future emotional wellbeing depends on me making sure he can go out. I am so grateful for all the support though, it makes such a difference.

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  8. I am so glad that the world of social media has got behind you and you have managed to get the zoo to make some progress. Good on you for your perseverance, it must have been very frustrating to keep writing and writing and getting very little response from the zoo. I hope things change soon so you are able to enjoy lots more family days out xx #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Their lack of serious response has been hurtful. Apart from a couple of replies saying someone will be in touch or that we will arrange a meeting ( many months ago, no meeting and further correspondence ignored) there has been nothing. Even when I contacted them to ask if they wanted the support from the charity which has been waiting to give money to the project.

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        1. Sometimes they are even worse. I have been discussing hoist assisted toilets with the manager at another local attraction and he was keen. Unfortunately, the directors seem less keen. It is always interesting when you receive an email that was clearly not intended for you!

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  9. Well done for all your campaigning, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be when there are no suitable toilets, in today’s day and age it really shouldn’t be happening. I can understand space and cost issues but with a charity offering to help there really is no excuse. Fingers crossed the meeting will actually take place this time, maybe including a local newspaper might help? Sell them on the publicity benefits and maybe that will help get other business joining in too x
    #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A little creative thinking could overcome the space concerns. It is a fairly open place! Sadly, it all depends on the attitude of those involved. In over a year since being asked they haven’t even had a quote. I had a company in the area more than once last year but they were not interested in taking the opportunity.

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    1. That is what makes me sad. Either they really don’t understand the importance or they just don’t care. It is very hurtful to so many people.

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    1. They replied to a couple, but by saying someone would be in touch and saying we would meet but then nothing happened. Over a year since first asking and no meeting, no quotes. Not even confirmation about whether they want to money a local charity has set aside for the project.

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    2. It is sad that it took a large number of people telling them that it is not okay to treat disabled people this way. But it has been heartwarming to have the support of so many people, most of whom don’t need a hoist or bench themselves. We all need the toilet though, and we all expect attractions to have them for us.

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  10. What a rubbish state of affairs, I’m glad they’ve made SOME progress but it sounds like the majority of that is down to you and all for one day of being able to visit. It’s certainly not something I’ve fully appreciated before but if they’ve got charities willing to help and people asking you’d think they’d have the decency to come back to you a bit more! I hope you make it to the zoo x #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And the day the mobile facility is coming down is not because of anything the zoo is doing, despite what they have suggested on social media. All credit for the Mobiloo coming goes to Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme (CAAP).

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  11. The power of social media! It’s a shame that it took that, but sadly that seems to be the world we live in. The more people and the louder the noise, the more likely people will take note and respond. I’m pleased it had a positive outcome. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hopefully they have now seen that equality matters to everyone, not just to disabled people. It has been really wonderful to see the support on social media pages from people who don’t need the equipment themselves but who totally support that it should be there.

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  12. What a palaver! I remain unimpressed that they didn’t take you up on putting them in touch with various companies for free quotations. Have they really come to those conclusions about viability after thoroughly researching it? It doesn’t seem like they have. It seems to me they are approaching it with a ‘can’t do’ attitude instead of a ‘can do’ attitude. I hope you get more than a day to ‘enjoy’ the zoo and its facilities. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I am hopeful that they now realise that they need to actually do something. It has been brilliant to see such support from people and I am sure that makes a difference to the zoo as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Well done for persisting and not giving up. I might be ignorant to the rules and regulations but I thought it was law for public attractions to have suitable disabled facilities? It is shocking that so many do not and I will definitely keep my eyes open when I’m out and about from now on! #KCACOLS

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  14. I can’t believe how much you had to pester them to even be acknowledged! Shocking! Although it is starting to sound promising!

    #KCACOLS

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    1. It has been a challenge but we spoke on the phone today and we are starting afresh. What matters is working together to achieve a facility which will provide toilet facilities for all. Thank you for caring.x

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This made me at sad, basic human rights being so ignored. My Frieda soon needs such facilities, it really is mind boggling who large organizations fail to respond to you. I’m sad for you. Well done for campaigning! #KCACOLS

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    1. Thank you for your support. It is frightening how quickly your wold shrinks when your child becomes too big to lift. And it hurts when your child reaches a point where they realise just how unwelcome they are.

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  16. Well done you! That’s amazing! I have no need for it but would like to think that all children could visit somewhere like a zoo!! I have always felt bad using the baby changing in a disable toilet. I know I need a little more space than the average toilet cubicle which the girls are young but I have always been uncomfortable using the disabled toilet. I’m able bodied and so are my kids. Just a slightly larger cubicle in the usual bathroom would be perfectly adequate…. oh and one in the men’s!! So hubby can do his share too!
    #KCACOLS

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  17. This sounds really stupid, but I’ve never really thought about this before (I’m embarrassed to say). I’d sort of assumed a disabled loo is suitable for everyone who needs it. Now you’ve pointed it out, its really obvious to me. I can think of loads of disabled loos I’ve been in (because they also have the baby change facilities) that wouldn’t be suitable for your son. Well done for trying to make a difference and raising awareness of this problem. #KCACOLS

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    1. I had never thought about it either till my son needed it.

      The same basic design has been in place for too long. This one is too small to close the door with the powered chair inside the room but other places are difficult too. We had a moment in McDonalds where we only wanted to go in to the bathroom to wash his hands but the sink was very close to the toilet and there wasn’t room to turn the chair. So we didn’t try. My son would be devastated if he damaged anything. Thank goodness for wet wipes!

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  18. I can’t believe the way the zoo have handled this. Whilst I understand their comments regarding the cost, to not even get someone in to see if they could change the current toilets seems ridiculous. And the fact it’s taken a year to get a response is crazy! Such a shame that families have to miss out on trips out together 😦 #kcacols

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    1. Exactly! Until you have a professional in to see what is possible with the current buildings there is no way to move it forward at all. And we already had several thousand pounds ready to go and I offered to take on the fundraising challenge for the rest.

      This affects too many families. Thankfully, many attractions and businesses in Cornwall realise that, with this being a tourist area, they need to do more to encourage disabled people to visit. We also have some great businesses which are open to doing it just because it is the right thing to do. Thanks for your support.x

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  19. Well done you! That’s amazing on the progress but it really shouldn’t take such a fight to give children the facilities to visit an attraction such as the zoo. It saddens me that this is just one fight of many, you’re amazing to campaign this way! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is the sad part. This is affecting hundred of thousands of families who just want to enjoy regular activities. It also affects friends. Adam’s best friend decided a long time ago that she would not visit the zoo till Adam can. How awesome is that? Children are amazing.

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  20. How frustrating and saddening for you and your son. Im glad that some, although little progress has been made. Its a step in the right direction, but hopefully more can be done to get this and many more attractions where they need to be with accessibility. Emily #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It should not have taken this long but there is now a new person dealing with things at the zoo and I do believe that they are interested and that things will move forwards now.

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  21. I want to say I am surprised how hard you had to fight to make any headway at all, but I am not. Nor am I surprised how hard you did fight, and will, for your child to have an opportunity to visit any darn event he can. (and all the other children too) I can only imagine the frustration and anger this whole thing has brought, but keep fighting Mama you will persevere in the end. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. These improvements are long overdue.

      Too many families are either too tired to speak up about these needs or they are just too afraid that people will not care. So many say nothing, many stay at home and this continues for the next generation.

      I don’t want there to be another mum in ten years, with another ten year old child, still struggling with these difficulties.

      It isn’t easy to do this and I am truly grateful for the support of so many people.x

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  22. Oh my goodness! I love Newquay zoo and was totally unaware of the lack of suitable accessible toilets. It amazes me every time I go out with my girls with just a standard pushchair, just how unaccessible most public places are, my girls don’t ‘have’ to be in the pushchair and I could get a smaller one, but someone in a wheelchair shouldn’t have to feel as shut out and unwelcome as I do when I walk into a shop or public attraction with my pushchair. Good for you for keeping up with this worthwhile campaign. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your support.

      I really appreciate it. I was really worried about sharing it because sometimes people can be very hurtful but I am overwhelmed at the compassion shown by so many.

      I have spoken today with another representative of the zoo and things are moving forward. x

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    1. They have called since and said that they are calling in a professional company to give a quote and that they are going to get in touch with the charity which wants to help. Hopefully, things will be smooth from here!

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    1. I hope that, 10 years from now, life will be much easier for another mum with a 10 year old. Hopefully, her child will not need to ask every day if there will be a toilet he can use when they go out.

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  23. It is really sad that it was such an ordeal. Accessibility and inclusion in this day and age, with the technology available etc should just be a given (and if not, an urgent priority) for all public places. Well done for doing something so so important, for all of us. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! Once an organisations knows that people are excluded due to something like this, it should become an urgent priority.

      Thank you for your support.

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  24. This is so sad to hear. You really would think that in this age, venues that aim to entertain would be highly inclusive and saddens me to hear they aren’t. I really hope they listen to you and others and sort out the facilities. Perhaps a fundraising campaign?
    #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, we definitely need more publicity.

      The official Changing Places toilet campaign has run for over 10 years but it seems that businesses don’t always want to hear about the needs of disabled people.

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    1. Especially not when a sizeable amount of funding was offered, as were my fundraising services. I did also tell them that I had raised over 20K the year before so you would have expected them to be interested.

      Hopefully, this will be a fresh start with them. Many disabled children love the zoo and they shouldn’t be excluded due to something as fixable as this.

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  25. This is such a heartbreaking post. I can not believe the problems you are all having! We are in 2017 – it should be bloody *bound by law* for *all* public facilities to have suitable toilets and access for everyone!! It’s just ridiculous that they get away with not having it.
    I truly hope it gets sorted – everyone has a *right* to participate and go to the Zoo or the Theme park and so forth, it’s disgusting that you are not able to go.

    #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for caring.

      You are absolutely right, these facilities should be bound in law. People think it is an inclusive society but it doesn’t feel that way for many.x

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  26. I signed the national position asking for disabled facilities to be overhauled across the country. I only hope they start to listen.

    My local farm has the proper fasciitis with large bed and hoist. Anyone can become disabled at any point too. It’s not just people born that way.

    It seems it’s going to be a long road but change is insight.

    Well done for you persistence.
    #KCACOLS

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  27. I love the way you have written this post, and your perseverance despite no replies. Isn’t it a shame it took social media to get them to respond! Fingers crossed they make some progress and your persistence is rewarded. #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  28. So sorry that you’ve had to go through the one sided penpal relationship with Newquay zoo for so long. And so sorry that Adam has not been able to enjoy a day out at the zoo like all children should be able to. I really really hope they improve the loo facilities to enable all disabled children to go to the zoo whenever they want to. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your support. It really has been difficult. Adam asks all the time if we can go to the zoo. Thankfully, they now seem keen to make things better for all who need these facilities.

      Like

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