Dirty and smelly toilets, small and cramped toilets, we’ve seen them all but whatever the facilities are like, we know there will always be toilets we can use when we go out. Or can we? Every day, hundreds of thousands of people face the seemingly simple challenge of finding and using a public toilet.
Accessible disabled toilets are always available and are expected. But for people who are profoundly disabled, even using these toilets can be impossible.
This is why we need more Changing Places toilets in the UK and worldwide.
Changing Places toilets allow many thousands of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities as well as those with other serious impairments such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or an acquired brain injury to use the toilet with dignity.
Something many people take for granted.
Changing Places toilets incorporate a height adjustable adult changing table, patient ceiling hoist and room for 2 carers and often a height adjustable basin and wash/dry toilet. Standard wheelchair accessible toilets just aren’t suitable for many disabled people or their carers.
In this enlightening blog, Zia Westerman, who is one of our Changing Places Supporters, explains why she can’t access a public toilet.
My name is Zia and I am 23 years old. I was born with a neuromuscular condition called Muscular Dystrophy. That does not stop me from having a bright outlook on life. Going to the toilet, however, does.
No-one likes talking about going to the toilet. It is a personal activity done behind closed doors. But it is time for me to share my story, one that has been hidden behind the screen for too long.
So, what do I do behind the closed door you might ask?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. For as long as I have been in my wheelchair, I have not been able use the public disabled toilets.
My condition affects my whole body, not just half. I cannot even lift my arm to scratch my nose. So, when it comes to me using the toilet it takes two experienced carers, a lifter, a full-body sling and a table. It is not an easy task and I still have trouble accepting the way I live today.
Everywhere I go, I see public disabled toilets for the able-disabled, people who have the muscle strength to move from A to B – not for the physically disabled. It is very disheartening.
I cannot leave my house for more than three hours at a time because I have to come home to go to the toilet. I cannot continue to live my life around a toilet.
This has affected my everyday living because I cannot be a normal 23 year old.
There’s no room to sit back and relax without keeping an eye on the time, thinking I need to go home to go to the toilet. I cannot spend a day out of town shopping or seeing doctors because I might need the toilet.
About ten years ago, while I was visiting the hospital for medical appointments, I wanted to go to the toilet but they didn’t even have the proper disabled facilities. At the hospital. I was appalled.
The only way for me to go to the toilet was to use one of the beds to get undressed, be wheeled naked (they said they would put a towel around me) down the corridor to the toilet area.
What if we were to take away all the public toilets? I am sure there would be many protests. But what about those who cannot use the public toilets because of the lack of room and equipment? You do not see these people because they are at home where the toilet is.
I cannot help but think how many other physically disabled people are having the same problem. If physically able people are good enough to have access to public toilets then why aren’t I?
Thanks Zia for your comments.
If you would like to find out more about Changing Places and how Astor-Bannerman, as one half of Aveso Ltd – sponsors of the Changing Places campaign can help you, check out our dedicated website section here and get in touch today for advice and to arrange your FREE site survey and assessment.