The Lack of Accessible Toilets in the UK Is a Problem Families Like Mine Face Each Day

There are so many issues that affect the disabled community.

Before I had a child with disabilities, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t give much thought to accessibility and the many issues that so many people in the disabled community face due to a lack of thought and care. I lived in a “disability free” bubble, ignorant to the world that I now live in. I naively assumed the Equality Act (2010) and decent morals would cover most of the issues our community faces.

Boy was I wrong.

Today, as mother to my beautiful 6-year-old son, Brody, who has a number of disabilities, I’m aware there are so many issues that affect the disabled community in the UK.

I’m aware the issues my family face are just a fraction of those faced by others.I’m aware that ignorance is bliss and the right to access is a fight we should all be fighting. Because if you don’t shout about access issues because it’s the right thing to do, you should bear in mind that disability can affect anyone of us at any time. An issue that perhaps doesn’t affect you today, might affect you tomorrow. And trust me — it’s an uphill, unjust battle.

Sadly, like the social model of disability points out — it is often the way society is organized that disables people, not a person’s impairment or difference.

The biggest access issue that affects my family is a lack of Changing Places toilets. I am like a broken record talking about the issue because I find it so hard to believe that we live in a UK that allows this to happen in 2018.

Before Brody outgrew baby changing facilities, I never gave much thought to how older children and adults who wear padded products changed when out and about. In that “disability free” bubble it simply didn’t cross my mind. I also didn’t think of how people who couldn’t self-transfer on to a toilet would be able to sit down on one. I naively assumed the so called “accessible toilets” would be accessible for everybody who had a disability.

Hundreds of thousands of people living in Britain can tell you — this isn’t the case.

More Changing Places toilets — a 12-square meter room with equipment such as a height adjustable changing bed, toilet and tracking hoist — are desperately needed throughout the UK. Sadly, there are only 1094 as I write, which really isn’t a lot, especially when you consider the fact there are 2500 toilets in Wembley stadium alone!

There are only 167 in Scotland where we live, and currently none in our local authority whatsoever. This means that unless people with disabilities who need access to these facilities stay at home and never go out, the choices left are undignified, unhygienic and unsafe.

How can the government justify that these options are acceptable?

How is it that the UK treats some of its most vulnerable citizens this way?

How can we say that it is OK that so many disabled people, their families and carers feel excluded, unwelcome and thought so little of because they are denied a basic human right when venturing out of their house: going to the toilet.

This is a huge issue affecting thousands of disabled people, their carers and their families.

And I’m ashamed that modern day Britain allows this to happen.

On Friday, May 11, 2018, I will be joining my friend, campaigner and mum, Sarah Brisdion and other campaigners sitting on the toilet in the window of the Bathstore in Baker Street, London. We will be having a #looathon and getting our #PantsDown4Equality to highlight the Changing Places toilet campaign and how our loved ones are put in awful undignified, unsafe and unhygienic situations because of a lack of these facilities in the UK. Please support us and help spread the message.


Image Credits: Laura Rutherford

A version of this blog originally appeared on Firefly Community.

You can read more from me on my blog Brody, Me & GDD. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

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