You’re out and about – perhaps shopping in town, maybe a visit to a museum, theme park, or garden centre. You could be at a football match or a concert. Maybe it’s a night at the theatre or a meal in a fancy restaurant. You could be stuck in a hospital waiting room. Perhaps you’ve just popped to the supermarket. Suddenly, you get an overwhelming urge to go to the loo. So you do just that, and carry on with your day. Because loos are everywhere these days, aren’t they? Loads of shops have them, plenty in shopping centres, and restaurants have to have them. No problem, right?
Wrong. The simple act of going to the loo, or having a nappy changed is not such a simple matter for thousands of disabled people up and down the country. When you think of a ‘disabled toilet’, you probably just think it’s a bigger cubicle with, perhaps, rails too. And that’s what so many disabled toilets are. But not all ‘disabled’ people are in wheelchairs, and not all people in wheelchairs can use these loos.
What we really need more of is ‘Changing Places‘. These are larger rooms with not only a toilet, but a height-adjustable bench and a hoist. This makes changing a much more dignified affair for those who have continence issues.
Currently, in many places, all that’s on offer is a dirty toilet floor. I’ve had to change Tink on a toilet floor. It’s vile. She’s too big to fit on a baby changing station now, so sometimes, if its urgent, this is our only option. If you want to, you could read some horrible stories of what people have to go through day in, day out, as well as stories about how Changing Places have literally changed people’s lives. At the moment, there are 892 registered Changing Places in the UK. A drop in the ocean, given that over a quarter of a million people could benefit from using them when out and about.
I don’t know how long Tink will wear nappies and will need changing. It could be a few weeks, or it could be several more years. The older she gets, the more difficult it will be to change her, especially when out. Having access to a Changing Place will make such a difference. It could be the difference between going somewhere or not going, it’s as simple as that. Even now, I have to plan when we go out, check what facilities are available, or how far away the car is if there’s nowhere suitable to change her so that I can change her there. And then just hope she doesn’t poo. Of course, if we’re out all day it doesn’t matter – she’ll need changing anyway, and we have been known to do it in a train carriage, on a beach, in a park, on my lap. Needs must. But it’s not right. It’s not private or dignified. And she’s getting too old to not draw curious, then disgusted stares from onlookers. And why shouldn’t they look disgusted? Who wants to see a 4 year old having a nappy changed in a very public place?
The campaign for more Changing Places has been going for a decade, and, very slowly, more and more are being installed in public places. But we need lots. Loads! Thousands! Disabled people are just that – people – and have the right to have their care needs met in a private, dignified and safe way when out and about, just like we all do. If you think you’d like to help, take a look at ways you can get involved or sign the petition.