“Have they got a bathroom I can use?”
Today we ventured out for lunch with friends. We did everything we could, we timed drinks at home, went to the toilet at the last possible moment and I didn’t take a drink for him in the car like most people would on a hot day.
We arrived, parked and found the trendy place we were visiting for the first time.
Downside – a big step to get in.
Upside – Adam’s wheelchair could get up it. (many chairs couldn’t)
Downside – most tables inaccessible to us.
Upside – one table was vaguely accessible.
Downside – a family was already sat there.
Upside – The family were kind enough to move.
Food and drinks ordered and everyone is happy.
And then the question, “Have they got a bathroom I can use?”
And my heart ached because I had to say no.
I should imagine that YOU would be quite cross if you went out to eat to find that there were no toilet facilities in the building for your child to use.
How about if there were none in the whole street?
Or in the whole town?
Because, for my son, there were no toilet facilities he could use in the whole town.
That probably wouldn’t be acceptable for you, not if it was your child.
But it is MY child. And I don’t think it is acceptable for him either.
Okay, he needs a little extra in a bathroom so I wouldn’t expect every cafe, diner or restaurant to have a hoist assisted toilet, but surely it is not expecting too much to have ONE in every town centre? Disabled people like to go out too you know!
Have you ever wondered how people who cannot stand up use the toilet?
Do you assume that “disabled toilets” have everything in them that all disabled people need? Do you assume that these are the very people that “disabled toilets” are for?
Indeed, many supermarkets now put those signs on the door reminding people that not all disabilities are visible. Because some people look and tut when they see seemingly able-bodied people use those facilities which are “intended for wheelchair users”.
Would it surprise you if I told you that some wheelchair users cannot use those facilities with a wheelchair logo on the door?
My son is one of hundreds of thousands of people who cannot.
This, to us, is a very disabling toilet, despite the wheelchair logo on the door.
My son’s manual chair is quite compact but it would not be easy for a powered wheelchair user to turn to lock the door? Where would a carer stand to assist?
This is an accessible toilet, with space for wheelchair users, carers and any other necessary equipment as well as a hoist and a changing table for those who need it.
These “Changing Places toilets” should be in addition to the standard “disabled toilets” provided, as a combination is required to meet all needs.
Maybe, if these facilities were standard, then we wouldn’t need signs reminding people that not all disabilities are visible, because everyone would know that more than one type of accessible toilet is provided for a good reason.
Maybe then, those who are more mobile but who need the extra space or privacy of the disabled toilet could use it without stares. It must be awful to have people judge you when you need the toilet. Using the facilities in public places can be a bit uncomfortable for us all, but it must be very hard for those who have invisible illnesses.
But not quite as awful as not being able to use a toilet at all. Because some people, just like my son, are currently unable to use ANY toilet facilities in most towns, villages, shopping centres, cinemas, theatres or tourist attractions.
And imagine the stares those people are met with when they couldn’t hold on any longer, when there is nowhere suitable to clean up and they have to travel home to do so.
How would you feel?
You can do more than think about it, you could sign THIS PETITION to help us make Changing Places Toilets become mandatory in major new developments.
None of us is immune to disability – one day you could need these facilities too.
Make it happen before your dignity depends on them.