Wheelchair users often get some strange looks from able-bodied people.
Especially if they create a miracle in the supermarket by rising from their chair to reach the higher shelves.
Or by getting up and walking to a table in a restaurant.
People use wheelchairs for a variety of purposes.
Some people can walk, but not far.
Some people have health problems which make it risky to walk far.
Others might tire easily so they use the chair in order to get where they are going, then walk once they arrive.
Able-bodied people do tend to be surprised when they see a wheelchair user get up and walk.
Which surprises me, because when it comes to accessible toilet facilities, people forget entirely that not all wheelchair users can stand or self transfer.
So many “disabled toilets” have been installed whilst completely forgetting it. Hundreds of thousands of disabled people in the UK are unable to self-transfer from their wheelchair to the toilet. But they still need to “go”!
Why are the needs of so many ignored? All that is need is a toilet, basin, hoist and changing table. Not hard and not really that expensive either. Certainly not against the cost of a person’s dignity and safety and not against the costs legal action under the Equality Act could reach!
To be honest, some disabled toilets are not much use to wheelchair users who can self transfer either! Being able to enter the room, turn and lock the toilet door is probably considered to be quite important by us all!
My local zoo is very aware that their “disabled toilet” is not even big enough to get a powered wheelchair inside and close the door. They are looking into it, but so far this is what they have put on the outside of the door!
A friend of mine who has a son who uses a wheelchair mused that maybe it means “throw your wheelchair on the floor because it’s no use to you in here”.
And nobody is quite sure why the wheelchair user is upside down. Unless perhaps they fell out of their chair whilst trying to squeeze into the toilet!
There was a time when I knew nothing about accessibility needs. It feels like many who design “disabled toilets” don’t know anything about it either.
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”. When a legal standard is ignoring those who cannot self transfer, what hope is there?
It needs to change. Disabled people need to be involved in the discussion about a new standard. As do carers for those who cannot express their requirements themselves.
Some wheelchair users can stand and walk. Some cannot.
But we all need to manage the same natural bodily functions.
I am a supporter of making sure those with non-visible disabilities feel comfortable accessing any toilet facility that they need.
I just think that the same right should be extended to all wheelchair users as well. Including my son.
My local zoo came on board, realised the importance of Changing Places facilities, and opened a fabulous one in December 2018.
Take a look at it and join me in saying Thank you to Newquay Zoo.
13 thoughts on “Some wheelchair users do and some wheelchair users don’t.”
My son uses a wheelchair for long distances. He can get up and get into the car or hold my hand to walk to the car with me. I’m sure some wonder why he needs it at all! 😊
I have a lot of friends with children with similar needs. Some people react like a miracle has just happened, others as though they think the family are faking the need for a wheelchair.
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I can relate. No one has come right out and said it, but their facial expression say it all. As if my handicap placard is not needed 😏
As an occasional wheelchair user I do get funny looks when I stop walking and get into my chair and vice versa.
I have spent way too long reading Part M regulations recently – I’m filing a representation about what our council’s Local Plan says about accessible housing. There are so many weasel words in the regulations “where possible” “if unavoidable” and so on that mean even new houses and flats aren’t always visitable – the supposed minimum level of accessibility.
I completely agree that people with disabilities and carers should be involved in determining Part M standards.
Words like “where possible” make me so cross! It isn’t impossible to make new housing accessible. There are very few people that we can visit because of access issues. A friend of mine lives in a relatively new house where it was a regulation that all sockets had to be at a level which can be reached by wheelchair users. Yet there are steps up to the house!
This exactly! We live in a bungalow which has wider doorways and large enough rooms to use a wheelchair inside, but there are steps to the entrance and also steps on the highway leading to our alley. Why did no one consider that?!
A friend of mine lives in a newish house where all the sockets had to be put in at a height for wheelchair users. Yet we can’t visit them due to the steps to get into the house!
Absolutely agree. Document M obviously misses a huge point when it comes to the idea of accessibility! #accesslinky
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It certainly does. It ignores an entire group of people, yet nobody who could do something about it, will do it.
You are so right! The idea of what a wheelchair user in the public mind is so narrow and specific! Can’t walk but are strong enough in the upper body to transfer in and out of their chair!
Actually I think we should use that sentence from part M!
“wheelchair users should be able to approach, transfer to and use the sanitary facilities in a building”
…. because it doesn’t say how they should transfer, just says they should be able to! Is it really saying we should be provided for however we transfer…? I reckon we should interpret it that way and quote this at venues!
Thank you so much for sharing on #AccessLinky
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I never knew that some disabled toilets have a lack of the basic necessities for people in wheelchairs as you’ve mentioned since I’ve never been into one. That is something that many establishment owners should put more attention to. I’m growing older every year and it’s not that far off for me to require a wheelchair too in the future as with everyone. That is why this is a serious concern that should be addressed properly. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences as a father.
None of us is immune to disability. We should all do whatever we can to make life better for everyone.
I totally agree! In Holland is the same probleem! I’ve started a petition for it. Good story!