I’m slightly embarrassed by this post.
Not because it’s essentially a fan girl letter to a bunch of bloggers and campaigners who are about to spend the day sitting on the loo in the window of a shop on Baker Street (no really they are) but because this is really the first time I’ve written about toilets, accessibility and Changing Places and frankly I’m a bit ashamed of myself.
The ability to access public toilets is not something many people give a lot of thought to on a day to day basis. Go to the shops, the cinema, a restaurant, need a wee, pop to the loo, end of story. Except for our family and hundreds of thousands of others, ordinary toilets are useless, even ordinary disabled toilets are useless.
I wanted to share this story to better explain how this impacts on our family time.
Last autumn we were on a family day out in Battersea Park. We love their Children’s Zoo and hiring bikes with a trailer on for the kids to sit in as we cycle round. The sun was shining, the girls were laughing, happy and covered in ice cream. We had just set the picnic blanket for lunch when it became clear that Mojo needed the loo.
For most of her life we have been able to use baby change facilities even though she was much too tall for them they have carried her weight and while it’s been a juggling act involving a degree of contortion, technically we were able to do it. I kind of reluctantly accepted that this was the only way. That was until the day that she was too heavy, too tall, too grown up to use the baby change.
This sunny day in Battersea was the first time I had found myself unable to use a baby change table (or the boot of the car) so I knew I had to find somewhere safe, private and big enough for the wheelchair to fit in to change Mojo’s nappy. What I found instead was this.
Mojo has complex medical needs and my hands are completely destroyed from repeated handwashing in an attempt to keep her from picking up any germs or bugs. The prospect of having to lie her on a urine and mud soaked floor alongside the dirty nappies, discarded loo roll and food wrappers is so abhorrent. Would you want to lie down there? Would you want to lie your child down there?
Needless to say our first experience of ‘making do’ with the floor was abandoned immediately and instead our family day out had to come to an abrupt end so we could change Mojo at home with some degree of dignity. Well, dignity that is if you ignore that fact that she had to sit in a wet nappy all the way home.
Now the state of this toilet you might argue, is pretty extreme but sadly the more I experience trying to find a clean floor to change her on the more I realise how virtually impossible it is.
So where does that leave us?
We are faced with the option of days out limited to the length of time Mojo can hold her bladder or only visiting places with a Changes Places facility.
What is Changing Places?
A Changing Places toilet has an adult sized height adjustable bench and hoist equipment. Its a simple as that and while they do need more space than a standard disabled toilet that space is equivalent to a single car park space.
Since our Battersea Park experience, and all the other similar days out which have followed, I’ve written countless emails. Emails I’ve not sent. I’ve drafted blog posts that I couldn’t articulate properly so they have remained unposted and ultimately I’ve done exactly nothing. Nothing.
I was too overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job of trying to make people understand why having appropriate toilet facilities for my daughter was not just a niche facility but a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT.
Today a group of far braver, far more proactive campaigners are taking this message to the streets by putting their own dignity to one side to ensure that in the future nobody should have to lie on the floor of a public toilet to have their basic needs met.
Please check out #pantsdown4equality and @HadleysHeroes to support everyone taking part today.
- There are 1104 Changing Places toilets in the UK
- There are 250,000 people who cannot use standard disabled toilet facilities in the UK
- It costs an estimated £10,000 – £15,000 for the equipment to install a Changing Places toilet
- It is most cost efficient to include this at the planning stages for a building