I love a good toilet.

You might think that’s weird but let’s face it, toilets are important. We all need them. But sometimes we can’t use them when we really need to, as maybe they are busy or out of order. This is especially true for disabled toilets.

As a wheelchair user I am unable to use the usual able-bodied toilets as there is not enough room in them to manoeuvre. So I depend on there being a disabled toilet in every place I visit. However, it is in no way guaranteed that there will be a disabled toilet in a given restaurant, pub or shop. Even if there is one, there is no guarantee that I will be able to use it for a number of reasons which I will now explain.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

  1. Disabled toilets are often too small

Yep, size does matter, at least where disabled toilets are concerned. They come in an incredible range of shapes and sizes. Some are big enough to have a party in with dozens of guests, and some are so small even a hobbit would find it cramped.

Disabled toilets need to have enough room in them so that even the biggest of wheelchairs can drive in and the carer has enough room to walk around them. If there is enough room for the chair to spin around 360° then that is fantastic. However such ample room is frustratingly rarely found.

Why can’t all disabled toilets be big enough so that it’s not a struggle to get into them? Why does it have to be such a lottery to find a really good one?

  1. Disabled toilets are often used as store cupboards

Yes, store cupboards! Even if the physical space in the toilet is big enough, it is not uncommon to find that the space is taken up by mops, brooms or chairs, I have even found them being used as a food store.

So, before the toilet can be used we need to chuck all the crap out of it so that I can physically get in. Not something that you want to have to do if you are desperate. The fine establishments that have done this obviously didn’t give a shit that it may be a major inconvenience if anyone actually wanted to use the toilet.

However, there have been occasions where there was so much stuff in the toilet that it was not possible to remove it without hiring a skip. So, in this case I was forced to leave the place and try elsewhere. Like I said, NOT something you want to have do if you are desperate.

  1. Disabled toilets are often wrongly used by able-bodied people

Many a time I have been desperate for the toilet only to find that it is engaged. After waiting for what seems like an age, I eventually find an able-bodied person sheepishly emerges from it. This enrages me.

Now, I know that not all disabilities are visible. I get that, and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I’m sure that people with no disabilities do use disabled toilets.

Disabled toilets are ALWAYS outnumbered by able-bodied toilets. Always. If you go into any able-bodied toilet you will usually find many urinals or cubicles to choose from. However, there is usually only one (or two if we’re lucky) disabled toilets in any one place. So there is really no need to use the disabled toilet if you are able-bodied.

At university I regularly found that girls used the disabled toilet to do their make up. On a number of occasions even couples were using the disabled toilet – no prizes for guessing what for! There are never enough disabled toilets so able-bodied people are abusing a valuable limited resource and forcing the people that it was designed for to wait.

If more than one disabled person needs to use the toilet at a time then often long queues form.

This goes to highlight the fact that…

  1. There are not enough disabled toilets

It seems almost everywhere you go there will only be ONE disabled toilet. This amounts to making the LEAST amount of effort required by law to accommodate disabled people.

That one disabled toilet may not even be usable for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Why can’t these places have more than one disabled toilet? What happens if, for example, a group of 10 disabled people wanted to use it at the same time? Nothing good I imagine.

The problem is that the Equality Act (2010) states that service providers must only make REASONABLE adjustments for disabled people. So they obviously think that only providing ONE disabled toilet is reasonable. But it is not practical, and in my opinion it is not reasonable. Able-bodied people are provided with many toilets, not just one. So why is the same not true for disabled people? That is inequality right there.

  1. There are no disabled toilets

All the previous issues I have assumed that a place actually has a disabled toilet, but many of them don’t. Mostly I find it is the older buildings and small businesses that don’t have disabled toilets. If they can’t add one because it’s a listed building then maybe that is fair enough. Otherwise there is no excuse.

I have been to pubs only to find there are no disabled toilets, and I really think they should be in a pub of all places. Some places do have disabled toilets…but you have to go up some STAIRS to get to it! I am not joking. Some idiot, somewhere, couldn’t see the problem that stairs might pose to disabled people. It is seriously beyond belief, but I assure you I am not making this up. It does happen.

Another equally baffling occurrence is when wheelchair users can’t even get in the building, yet they still have a disabled toilet. Who is going to use it if wheelchair users can’t even get in the building??

The Solution

All of the above problems and more can be solved by “Changing Places” toilets. These are the absolute gold standard for disabled toilets. They are brilliant. Each one contains a ceiling hoist, a changing bed, a centrally placed toilet and all the room you could ever need. They are like the Sistine Chapel of the toilet world. There are now hundreds all over the country but more need to be built, as they really do make disabled people’s lives a lot easier.

No more will disabled people need to be laid on a dirty toilet floor to be changed. No more will disabled people have to wait all day to go to the toilet because there was not a hoist available when they were out. No more will we have to fight to squeeze into a ridiculously undersized toilet just to exercise our basic human right to have a pee when we need it.

Changing places toilets need to be installed in all major public places like shopping centres, airports, service stations, sports stadiums, theatres and arenas. These places will only install changing places toilets if we make our voices heard. Please help our campaign by spreading the word and lobbying your local venues to install changing places toilets. This will help give disabled people a lot more freedom in the places they can visit, and will make their lives a lot easier.

You can find out where the nearest Changing Places toilets are, or find out about the campaign by going to their website: http://www.changing-places.org/


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