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It's Not Unreasonable to Expect This Basic Human Right for Disabled People

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You know that saying (and I’ve used it before) by Martin Luther King: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Well, I just keep being reminded of it…

The Mighty recently published my latest article in relation to fully accessible toilets – or to be more specific Changing Places and Space to Change toilets. It’s something I am really passionate about and it’s a massive issue which affects so many families. In Space to Change survey, 86 percent of parent carers said they have to leave a venue because of inadequate accessible toilet facilities for their loved ones. At the risk of repeating myself – any one of us can become disabled at any time. Anyone of us
could face this dilemma tomorrow.

I was pleased to hear The Huffington Post in the U.S. was also going to feature the article – another great site with a wide audience. I thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to raise awareness of the need for such facilities – because too many people aren’t aware of this issue – ignorance being bliss and all.

It popped up on my Facebook newsfeed and seemed to capture a fair amount of attention – but a lot of the attention was negative and completely misplaced.

Some people hadn’t even read the article and had just read the title “Fighting the ‘Uphill Battle’ for Larger Diaper Changing Tables in Public Restrooms” and assumed I was campaigning for baby changing stations for older children who had no disabilities but were late to potty train. Perhaps this is because the audience on The Huffington Post are different to The Mighty audience and judged the title based on their ignorance that all children should be potty trained at a certain age.

Comments included:

“If you’re child cannot fit on one [a changing table], they probably shouldn’t need one…” 

“Train the brat – it’s your fault for not training him. You need your ass kicked for
being lazy
”. (Charming)

“Go somewhere that suits your individual needs or find a way to manage. I’m saying this as a mother of two.” (Non-disabled children I’m guessing)

Then there were comments from people who understood  I was talking about facilities for disabled people but still just didn’t get it.

“We simply cannot accommodate everyone and everything, people!” (As long as we can accommodate this person, I’m guessing)

“Some may argue that outings should just be planned around changing times”. (Because scheduling the need to go to the toilet is simple for a person without continence issues, let alone a person with no bladder/bowel control!)

“Who’s going to pay for it – you? Didn’t think so!” (Assuming this person pays for every public toilet they use…)

“Change them standing up!” (Sigh! Because that’s a simple solution for those who cannot weight bear!)

“What businesses do you think should make this a priority? Not all can accommodate needs like this.” (Did I say they could or should?)

I can’t address everyone who comments on a post without reading it, other than to suggest the obvious. But I can try (and try again) to educate people on this matter.

Both disabled children, teens and adults with continence issues require more space for a carer or wheelchair, a changing bench and a hoist – which is what a Changing Places toilet provides.

A Changing Places toilet at Kirroughtree Visitor Centre, Scotland

Lifting a disabled child or adult compromises the health and safety of the disabled person and the carer. A hoist can safely transfer the person onto the changing bench or toilet.

Of course, people don’t want to use a toilet floor, but sometimes it simply is the only option for them. They can’t carry an adult. And they can’t leave them sitting in their own mess. It’s an awful predicament. 

Campaigners are more than aware that not every business can provide these facilities. But it isn’t unreasonable to ask (I also got told I was demanding) larger businesses — such as airports, theme parks, hospitals and shopping malls — to provide fully accessible toilets. These businesses have millions of dollars and guess what? Disabled people and their families spend money too!

Unreasonable is not being treated with dignity. 

Unreasonable is not being provided with a basic human right.

Unreasonable is the ignorance of others.

Unreasonable is that this is even debatable in 2016.

 There’s a saying, “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I am somebody.”

That’s me. I am trying to change the world for my son and for others. Just like so many other campaigners. Maybe we are ridiculous thinking we can, but hey – aren’t the ones who think they can change the world the ones that sometimes do?

There is never any harm in trying to make the world more accessible for our loved ones. And I thank every person who does.

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Originally published: October 24, 2016
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