The Blog

It's Not Just Paralympian Athletes Who Have To Pee Themselves

I am one of the people who didn't find that news shocking at all. In fact, in an odd way I was pleased that it had happened to someone in the public eye, someone who was brave enough to come forward and tell the media about it so that finally our voices have a chance of being heard.

Last week's news about Anne Wafula Strike was shocking and upsetting to most of the UK public, but there are a huge group of people to whom that news was nothing new. In fact it was something they are more than used to happening on trains regularly, as well as in hospitals, supermarkets, cinemas, theatres and even restaurants.

I am one of the people who didn't find that news shocking at all. In fact, in an odd way I was pleased that it had happened to someone in the public eye, someone who was brave enough to come forward and tell the media about it so that finally our voices have a chance of being heard. Because the reality is that this happens regularly, and not just when a toilet is out of order.

You see disabled toilets might as well all have an out of order sign on them when it comes to the approx 14 million people who can't use them.

Yes, you read that right... 14 million people would find a standard disabled toilet pretty hard to use, most of them would find it impossible.

That could be for a vast range of reasons:

There might not be enough space for their powered wheelchair or for the carers they need to help them.

There might not be a hoist to lift them from their chair to the toilet and they might not have the upper body control or strength to self-transfer.

There might not be a large enough changing bed for them to lie on if they cannot stand up unaided. It's not just babies who need to lay down to have their continence needs met.

Someone with a stoma would need a hook on the back of the door to hang clothing; a clean hygienic surface space on which to spread out their stoma bags and accessories and a disposal bin in the cubicle to dispose of their stoma bag away from public view.

The lighting might be too low for someone with visual impairment to be able to find their way around the room.

They could also be a disabled parent who needs the space to manoeuvre their wheelchair and access a changing table at an adjustable height in order to change their baby without having to rely on help from someone else.

And many other reasons.

In the UK there are only 909 facilities which would meet the needs of all of those people.

That sounds like loads doesn't it. Until you put it into perspective - that would equate to one toilet in every 103.9 square miles!

The facilities I mention are called Changing Places or Space to Change toilets. They are slightly different to a 'normal' disabled toilet in that they provide the additional space needed to allow someone to use the space in their powered wheelchair, or with two carers if they need it.

They also provide the hoist and changing bed I mentioned earlier to allow someone with a severe disability to be lifted safely and/or laid down.

They have good lighting, and some have additional features too, depending on where they are.

There are over 250,000 people who need every single aspect one of these facilities provides, but there are up to 13.75million who might need one or two of the features and without them none of these people can use a toilet when they are away from home.

That's up to 14 million people who have their dignity stripped from them every time they leave their house.

Have you seen them in the news recently?

They have a few options of course to which might help to reduce the humiliation of wetting themselves in public.

They could wear a pad, which is an option I suppose but they'd still have to sit in their own urine (or worse) until they could get home. I wouldn't want to do that. In fact, I would be disgusted if anyone expected me to.

They could hope that they could 'hold it in' long enough to get home, or to one of the 909 toilets they can use.

They could take medication to stop them needing to go. Or they could withhold fluids. Both of these options are dangerous and could lead to infection or hospitalisation.

They could stay home.

But why, in 2017, should they have to do any of those things?

Why are those of us who need nothing more than a simple toilet, not doing more to help the minority who need a little extra help to live a better life?

We all expect to be provided a toilet in a restaurant, a supermarket or department store, a cinema etc.

How would we feel if none of those places provided this for us? How would we feel if we had no option but to wear a pad/adult nappy and use that despite being fully able to use a toilet if the right equipment was in place?

I truly believe that anywhere that provides a toilet for us, or for other disabled users, should provide a FULLY accessible toilet so that EVERYONE can have their most basic of human needs met. All it takes is a little consideration.

These people could be catered for with very little effort, space or money. And if we are expecting businesses to cater for us, why shouldn't we expect them to cater for everyone? It makes good business sense to do this.

If you agree, please sign this petition and help us to change legislation regarding these facilities so that they are included in building regulations and are provided in large buildings such as cinemas, supermarkets, shopping malls, leisure centres.

Access to a usable toilet facility would make the world of difference to up to 14 million people and that's not even an exaggeration! Wouldn't you want to help make a change for them?

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