Article 3 of the Human Rights Act states that we have “freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.”
There are laws to protect our rights.
Except for one group, who seem to have no protection at all in one very important area of life.
It is a big group, including hundreds of thousands of families in the UK alone.
This is Adam. He is my son. He is part of this group.
Document M (the legal requirement for provision of toilets) states that “wheelchair users should be able to approach, transfer to and use the sanitary facilities in a building”.
It assumes that all wheelchair users can independently transfer to the toilet without assistance from equipment or carers. But what about those who cannot?
Where are these people considered in the legislation?
They are not.
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who rely on a hoist and changing table to access a toilet or meet your personal care needs, there are no mandatory laws about providing facilities for you.
Whilst there are laws ensuring that my needs are met, meeting your needs in public places is merely a “recommendation”.
So what happens to people who need this equipment?
Adam (that sweet 10 year old in the photo) is able to use the toilet but needs a hoist to lift him from his wheelchair and an adult sized changing table to lay down on to sort clothing and switch to his toileting sling before hoisting to the toilet. There are photos here of him accessing a Changing Places toilet. He is not passively being hoisted – he is involved and assisted. Without facilities such as these he is uncomfortable and knows that he risks soiling himself with no possible way to clean up till he gets home. What if leakage comes through his clothes? Or onto his wheelchair?
So he “chooses” to stay at home.
Many families will change the soiled pad of their much loved person on a toilet floor, or in the back of their car or even behind a bush. Lifting a person who is almost as big as you is not easy and these carers are just one lift or twist away from serious injury. And not everyone can lift or be lifted.
A person can be manhandled and treated in an undignified way with the risk of being dropped, they can sit in soiled clothes or they can “choose” to stay at home.
If it was you, which would you choose?
Any one of us can become disabled at any time.
This might be a choice you will have to make.
Or would you want the law to change?
As it stands, the current Building Standards merely “recommend” that toilets with a hoist and bench (Changing Places toilets) should be installed in larger buildings and complexes.
These places include:
a) major transport termini or interchanges, e.g. large railway stations and airports
b) motorway services
c) sport and leisure facilities, including large hotels
d) cultural centres, such as museums, concert halls and art galleries
e) stadia and large auditoria
f) shopping centres and shopmobility centres
g) key buildings within town centres, e.g. town halls, civic centres and main public libraries
h) educational establishments
i) health facilities, such as hospitals, health centres and community practices.
Shall we just “recommend” that places provide ladies toilets as well as gents?
Shall we just “recommend” that businesses pay men and women equally?
Shall we just “recommend” that we don’t discriminate in any part of life?
We have mandatory laws because “recommendations” don’t work!
Adam is ten years old and he knows that the current “recommendation” does not work.
So why do our politicians and their advisers not know?
I think they do know.
Perhaps they would like to explain to Adam why they have stood by for so long and ignored the inhuman and degrading treatment of people like him?
Or of people like us?
Because we are all people.
Please contact your MP. You can use THIS SITE to find their contact details.
Ask them if they know that there are no laws to protect some disabled people.
Ask them how they will end this situation.
It only takes a few minutes to send an e-mail.
Those minutes might help spare you from this situation in your future.