What is your expectation of a simple family day out?
Maybe a walk, a trip to a park and a spot of lunch?
And you would anticipate it all being rather fun, maybe even relaxing if your child is a bit older.
It seems reasonable!
We parked and headed along a well loved and popular walk in Hayle, Cornwall. One end of the walk has an outdoor pool, the other a popular children’s park, so it is a great place to go.
We headed towards the park. Adam was amazing at driving his powered wheelchair and keen to go to the park as there is a new wheelchair accessible roundabout. He is used to parks having NOTHING AT ALL for him, so one little roundabout was actually quite a draw for him.
But what are your expectations of a park?
Do your children expect several fun pieces of equipment? Would they be delighted at just one thing being in a play park? Do you expect more? Is it reasonable to expect more?
But even before we arrived, we hit a snag…
We reached the end of the lovely footpath area to find a helpful lowered kerb on our side of the road, but no lowered kerb on the other.
Adam wanted to just turn back. He isn’t a fan of busy roads, and no lowered kerb means that we have to find another way to cross. He was anxious. His day was going downhill.
We saw a lowered kerb at the end of the road, so headed to it. Adam now needed help to drive his chair as he was worried by the road and about how he would cross.
Independence lost. Surely the expectation of lowered kerbs on both sides of the road is not unreasonable?
We made cheerful sounds and focussed on the roundabout. We made it!
He was so very happy.
One piece of play equipment and he felt happy.
Because he is used to nothing! He is used to being excluded. He is used to being a watcher, on the outskirts of all the fun. Would your children think that was okay?
We had fun, but my darling son feels the emotions of others very deeply, something that many do not understand about autistic people. People have seen TV shows and think that autistic people lack emotion, but that isn’t the case. My son feels emotion very deeply. When a small child in the park fell and cried, Adam was overwhelmed with concern for her and was unable to continue to play.
So we left, and had the lowered kerb issue again. Adam was too upset to drive his chair at all. Others could just cross the road, a short distance, a straight line, and be away from the road and on the safe path away from traffic again. But not us. Not powered wheelchair users.
It was lunchtime when we arrived back at the car. And we needed the toilet.
Other families would have been able to “go” at the park, or they could have wandered a short distance to a nearby pub, restaurant or café. Or popped to the nearby Asda, or gone to a local attraction where they (we) are pass holders.
But, for us, and for 1 in 160 people in the UK, Hayle has absolutely no toilets at all. So we drove 8 miles to the nearest Changing Places toilet, at Heartlands, in Pool, where there is a café, great open spaces to explore and a fabulous play area if you can walk! They are at least aware of the need to provide accessible equipment, but knowing that doesn’t make it hurt a disabled child any less.
The Changing Places toilet is great. They take excellent care of it and it is always clean. As they do with their other toilet facilities. It is a great place really, with a café which makes the best carrot cake and has lovely staff.
Unfortunately for Adam, the café allows dogs in and there were a lot of them on this day. Adam is scared of dogs, and could not eat near one, so we left without eating.
Fortunately, Adam recently discovered fish and chips and there is a great new chip shop locally, Sanders, which does takeaway food and has a restaurant. Friends had given positive reviews of the restaurant in terms of food and accessibility so we gave it a try.
There was good parking, on level ground, and easy access into the building.
We asked for a quiet table (we are practicing eating out, we still find it hard) and the waitress immediately moved chairs and asked what we needed. Just knowing that people want to help really makes a difference. I have been in some places where you see a visible look of disdain when they see that we have a disabled child with us.
Lunch was a roaring success!
Rarely have I tried a fish and chip shop where the fish is this good! I was slow to take a photo and Adam had eaten all the fish and all the peas by this point!
Our waitress was lovely in the way she interacted with Adam. She did nothing which others would rate as exemplary, she simply treated him as a child. And that matters!
I didn’t dare check the toilets, as I didn’t want to risk Adam thinking about them. We needed to make it home! There is nothing like someone else talking about toilets to make others need to go! But we didn’t expect there to be suitable facilities. Would you? Do you think it is reasonable to expect toilets in a restaurant? Is it a reasonable expectation for you?
It might not seem much, going to three different locations to play, use the toilet and then eat. But have you ever had to secure a wheelchair user, travelling in their chair, into a car?
It is hard work, requiring a lot of bending and twisting in order to secure the straps.
We got in the car four times and out again four times, all in the space of four hours. I was very grateful to have the support of Adam’s PA who did a lot of the work today. My back has not been great this week and I would not have managed this simple outing without her.
That realisation hurts me.
I wish it wasn’t true. I wish I wasn’t struggling so much. I wish that better facilities had existed over the last few years so that maybe I didn’t have so many injuries. I wish better facilities existed now.
Because, if Hayle town had a Changing Places toilet we would have parked once, got out of the car once, had our walk, played in the park, used the toilet, eaten in the town, and then got in the car again to go home.
Shouldn’t we all be able to expect that?
I think every town should have usable toilets for all. And this is really all that needs to be added.
A ceiling hoist is simply a motor which goes up and down. It is no more complex than an automatic door. And the changing table is as simple as you are seeing.
Is it really so hard for every town centre and large tourist attraction to have one toilet like this?
(Am I Being Unreasonable, for those who don’t enjoy the fun of Mumsnet.)
If you actually think it is unreasonable to expect to cross a road safely, or use the toilet safely, then I suggest you Google “Ableist”.
And then take a moment to consider that any one of us can become disabled at any time. Your able-bodied privilege can disappear at any time.
That is the reality that you face as the #NotYetDisabled.
If you are unsure what a Changing Places toilet is, please check out “What is a Changing Places toilet?” for a simple explanation.
I am going to assume that everyone already knows what a lowered kerb is for!