My seven year old daughter needs the loo, nothing unusual there, we all do on average 4-6 times a day, more so if you're a small child. Most places we go there is a loo that we can use, if there isn't a public toilet available when we go out, then we nip somewhere to eat and use their loo while we're at it. Pubs, cafes, cinemas, supermarkets, theatres and shopping centres all provide toilets for their customers. I mean who would visit if they didn't? There would be an uproar! However they do not provide toilets for my daughter.
Even my local hospital doesn't provide a toilet that my daughter can safely use.
Now I bet you are thinking that I live in a 3rd world country, but no I live in the UK.
My daughter happens to have physical and learning disabilities. She is a wheelchair user, unable to stand or walk unsupported. In order to have her continence needs met then she needs a Changing Places toilet facility, which has a standard toilet but also has a hoist and adult changing bench. Currently I can lift her out of her wheelchair, but one day that will change, she is only going to get bigger and heavier. Currently I do a risk assessment on the baby change facilities available, will it take her weight? Do I risk putting her on there? Can I risk leaving her in a wet nappy if I don't think it will take her weight? And some days I have to just have to grin and bear it, kneel on a public toilet floor, lift her out of her wheelchair, stand her against me and hope that her legs don't give way and change her nappy that way. Luckily she does have some muscle tone, otherwise it would be her laid on the toilet floor...
There are an estimated 250,000 people in this country who have the same problem as us, along with their families and carers. People who are living with cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, who have an acquired head injury or those whose mobility has suffered due to cancer. Children, teenagers, adults and pensioners. Many with low immune systems, or with invasive equipment such as feeding tubes and catheters. Their carers having to use manual moving and handling techniques that are considered too dangerous for nurses and paid carers to use in hospital, and yet there is little choice out in the community for carers, paid or unpaid. For those that are unlucky enough to be too heavy to lift, then the choice is to sit in an incontinence pad for hours at a time, or not to venture far from home.
For those that would say I would never lie my child on a toilet floor. Remember this. There are only about 1000 registered Changing Places facilities in the whole of the UK. Many towns and cities do not have a single facility that my daughter can use. There are only a handful of supermarkets in the whole of the UK with these facilities, we all have to shop and even with the power of internet shopping things get forgotten and are needed.
Last year there were less than 40 hospitals in the whole of the UK with a registered Changing Places toilet facility, obviously this is somewhere we would love to avoid visiting but sadly is somewhere we have to visit on a very frequent basis. It means that when we are visiting outpatients' departments or visiting relatives, there is simply nowhere that we can "go" with dignity.
Not one single person on this planet can opt out of the need to use the loo, and when nature calls we all have to answer.
I want my daughter to be able to live a very happy and fulfilled life, to truly be a part of her community. She already is a member of her local Brownies, she loves horse riding, she attends mainstream as well as SN school. She loves going to the theatre, to country fayres and just being out with her friends and family.
But I worry constantly that she is slowly going to disappear from her community, all through the lack of toilet facilities that she can use.
One day she is going to be to heavy to lift, one day we will just not be able to manage anymore.
I have written to to the Prime Minister to various Government departments. Change is very slow in happening...
My own council have been very supportive and have increased the number of Changing Places facilities in the area from 2 to 9, with more to come with new developments and renovations.
I have written to every council in Great Britain asking them to do the same, I have emailed every hospital trust in England asking them to include these facilities for visitors to their hospitals. I have a petition calling for Changing Places facilities to be included in new large public buildings, please sign and share it.
Inclusion means much more than building ramps. If we're going to have an inclusive society at least build the very toilets that EVERYONE can use, don't let the most vulnerable end up on the toilet floor...
How can you Help?
If you have had similar problems when visiting hospital then please make a complaint at your local PALS office and also share your views with Healthwatch .
Please contact your MP if there are a lack of facilities in your area.
Sign and share this petition
Above all, please don't think that you wont be listened to, the more of us that speak out, the harder we are to ignore...
HuffPost UK Lifestyle has launched EveryBody, a new section calling for better equality and inclusivity for people living with disability and invisible illness. The aim is to empower those whose voices are not always heard and redefine attitudes to identity, lifestyle and ability in 2017. We'll be covering all manner of lifestyle topics - from health and fitness to dating, sex and relationships.
We'd love to hear your stories. To blog for the section, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line 'EveryBody'. To flag any issues that are close to your heart, please email email@example.com, again with the subject line 'EveryBody'.
Join in the conversation with #HPEveryBody on Twitter and Instagram.