How would you feel if every time you went somewhere you were told that they were not expecting people like you?
What if you took your baby with you to a local tourist attraction to find there were no changing facilities and no toilets large enough to take your pushchair in with you? Do you leave the baby outside whilst you “go” or do you try not to drink anything all day so that you can stay longer? Or do you go home?
Would you be surprised? Or perhaps annoyed? You have just paid a lot of money to come in and this is the 21st century. Surely it isn’t asking too much to have adequate toilet and changing facilities for a parent with a baby?
Babies have, after all, been in society for a long time. Their needs surely deserve consideration, as do yours as a parent.
Would you ask them to provide a toilet with room for the pushchair and with baby changing facilities?
How would you feel if they just ignored you?
Or if they asked if you knew of any grants available for those facilities?
Or if they said they didn’t really think they needed them as they didn’t think they had enough visitors with babies who would need them?
Or if they told you nobody else had complained?
Or if they suggested that you ask a different attraction to install those facilities?
We have an expectation that baby changing facilities will be provided.
We have an expectation that parents will be able to take their baby into a customer toilet and not have to leave them outside or go home.
We don’t call ahead to check if it is okay to bring a baby.
We don’t call ahead to ask if they have toilet facilities for ladies as well as gents.
Of course there will be facilities.
So isn’t it time disabled people had the same expectation?
Hundreds of thousands of people need a hoist to lift them from their wheelchair to the toilet. Or to a changing table to change pads. Many people have continence needs which can only be met with a toilet which also has a hoist and changing table.
Here is a photo of the one in our bathroom, just to show how simple this equipment it.
It isn’t particulary “special” and it isn’t particularly expensive.
What it is, is a lifeline to access.
Without these two pieces of equipment many people stay away from all the places most of us take for granted.
My 10 year old son is one of those people.
Isn’t it time all people felt able to go out?
Isn’t it time to put an end to a situation of massive inequality?
Yet all too often when a person like me speaks politely to a local attraction I get a response like those above. Read between the lines, those responses basically say “We understand that this is what we have to do to enable hundreds of thousands of families like yours to be able to come, but we don’t really want you to come.”
Time and time again, people like me hear that.
If they wanted us to come they would look horrified when they learn that someone can’t visit due to toilet needs.
They would ask what was needed.
They would ask what they could do.
Then they would start looking at ways to make it happen.
And, thankfully, there are some businesses which do just that.
Cornwall Services is one such business.
We called ahead.
We visited with our own equipment.
And the manager looked deeply affected when he saw what we had to do.
So he asked what was needed.
He asked for details of companies which could install the equipment required.
He spoke to the rest of the management team.
He got quotes.
He made it happen.
All within three months!
And today it was our pleasure to present Alex Lawson, manager of Cornwall Services, with The People’s Choice Changing Places Toilet Award.
This is a national award but votes came in from across the country for this service station in Cornwall. It isn’t the biggest, it doesn’t have the fanciest of equipment, but what it does have is a team of people who understand the value of it.
And it has an unusual story. Because the team at Cornwall Services made no excuses, they put up no barriers, they just understood and wanted to make it right.
They want everyone to know that they are welcome.
The sad part, is that the response of Cornwall Services is widely regarded as being amazing. When really, it should simply be seen as the right response.
Hopefully other organisations will be inspired to follow their lead.
Why not challenge a service station, supermarket, cinema, theatre or tourist attraction near you to beat their record?
You don’t have to need them yourself to ask.
Share this story with them.
Ask them if they want families like mine to be able to come.
Because all we want is to live life. Just like you.