A few days ago I took part in a live discussion on the Victoria Derbyshire show which was being filmed nearby.
It was an opportunity for local people to share the issues which matter to them as we head towards a General Election.
In Cornwall the big issues were not Europe or immigration, but included housing, the level of people needing food banks, opportunities for children, social care, the NHS and equality for disabled people.
I was pleased to be able to share one of our biggest concerns, the lack of Changing Places toilet facilities across the UK.
This issue is limiting the freedom of hundreds of thousands of disabled people and their friends and family, causing many to be excluded from the opportunity to even take part in events like this.
Had my son wanted to come along, he couldn’t have managed to stay for the session as there are no Changing Places toilets in the town where this was filmed. If I not been able to sort childcare, I would not have been able to attend either, as I couldn’t simply bring him son along.
I was pleased at how it went but I was a bit shocked to see the tired looking woman with dark circles around her eyes. She was wearing my clothes and using my voice but I barely recognised her. She looked down-trodden, exhausted by battles which shouldn’t need to be fought.
What happened to the smiley, bright-eyed optimist that I remember?
My body is damaged from lifting another person for too long and not having any time to rest and recover. My back hurts all the time.
My heart aches from knowing that my son hurts.
And I am tired. So very tired.
Not from being my son’s mum or carer, but from the seemingly endless battles for inclusion in parts of life which others take for granted.
And our politicians have known that this is the reality.
In January 2017 there was an adjournment debate in Parliament where Changing Places toilets were discussed. It was an interesting debate and I was impressed at the interest shown by those present. They seemed to understand the serious way that a lack of these facilities is affecting people. Unfortunately, I only counted ELEVEN Members of Parliament at the debate.
Just 11 stayed to listen, to learn or just to show that they cared.
There may have been good reasons for some not being there, but really, JUST ELEVEN does not show that inclusion and equality of access really mattered to our representatives.
The Women and Equalities Committee recently produced a report recommending that Changing Places toilet facilities become mandatory in some developments. I shall be watching with interest to see if those recommendations get implemented.
Until then, the late nights working to get more people to understand are here to stay.
I see the same dark circles around the eyes of parents who trod this path ahead of me.
I don’t want to see them on those who will follow.
Please feel free to share this with your own Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.
Do ask if they are aware that hundreds of thousands of disabled people are being excluded from everyday life by something as simple and fixable as a lack of properly accessible toilets.