Before I had a child with disabilities, I’m ashamed to say that 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 that the Equality Act (2010) and decent morals would cover most of the issues that our community faces.
Boy was I wrong.
Today, as mother to beautiful Brody (6), who has a number of disabilities, I’m aware that there are so many issues that affect the disabled community in the UK.
I’m aware that 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 organised 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.
Brody is doubly-incontinent and as a result wears nappies. Before he outgrew baby changing facilities I never gave much thought to how older children and adults who wear padded products got 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 so called “accessible toilets” would be accessible for everybody who had a disability that meant that they were unable to use a standard toilet.
Hundreds of thousands of people living in Britain can tell you - this isn’t the case.
More Changing Places toilets – a 12 square metre 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 that 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 we stay at home and never go out, the choices we are left with are undignified, unhygienic and unsafe – change Brody in our car boot, change him on a public toilet floor or leave him sitting in a dirty nappy.
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 okay 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.
A version of this blog originally appeared on Firefly Community.