I've been contacted by a couple of bloggers over the last few days who were looking for hints and tips for potty training, not sure why they contacted me but they did and I think they were shocked by my replies! So, I thought I'd lay it out on the line for everyone to read because, personally I think it's time the world knew that there are children living that society is preventing from being 'potty trained'.
My son William is eight years old. He isn't potty trained. He wears nappies every day, and uses up to seven nappies a day.
Now, William is disabled but that isn't the only reason he isn't toilet trained. In fact, he does use the toilet at home and at school and we rarely have to change a 'dirty' nappy because he knows the toilet is where he should do his business. I'm sure he would love nothing more than to wear normal, so called big-boy pants, instead of having to wear a bulky uncomfortable nappy all the time.
I'd love nothing more too!
In fact, I spoke to some of my friends about this and between us we could think of 24 other children who are also in this situation and who could be toilet trained if society allowed it. 24 doesn't seem like a big number but this wasn't a scientific study, this was just us having a quick think of people we knew in our little town in West Sussex!
It's highly likely that all of them will have to wear a nappy every single day for the rest of their lives unless society makes some radical changes that allow them to be able to be 'potty trained'.
I mentioned earlier that William is disabled, he has quadriplegic cerebral palsy which means that he doesn't have much control of his body. He can't sit or stand up unaided and hasn't got much control over his limbs. But, considering the severity of his disability, he does have quite good understanding and many of his friends are not affected cognitively at all so they have the capacity to learn, they understand a lot of things and they know that other children and young people their age don't have to wear nappies and sit in their own urine.
William, aged 8
Imagine how they must feel to know that their brothers and sisters don't have to wear a nappy, or that their friends know they are wearing one. Imagine their embarrassment when they have to relieve themselves in a nappy, it must be so degrading.
I'm sure you are wondering why can't they just use a toilet like everyone else? I mean, there are disabled toilets everywhere right?
Well yes there are, but as I mentioned earlier, William and many others can't sit or stand unaided, so that means they can't stand up to get out of their wheelchair and get onto the toilet. They can't stand up to be cleaned after they've been to the toilet and they can't use their arms to support themselves or clean themselves because of their disabilities.
They need a little more help. Help in the form of a parent or carer to assist them but also in the form of 2 vital pieces of equipment. A large changing table for them to lay on (baby changing tables are too small for children over approx. 3yrs old) and a hoist to lift them from their wheelchair and onto the toilet/changing table because they are too heavy for their parents/carers to manage safely.
We have this at home so William can use the toilet there, and at school, but have you ever seen a, so called, accessible toilet with any of this equipment in it? Probably not. If you have then you have been lucky enough to see one of only 976 facilities in the UK which provide this vital amenity, which is known as a 'changing places toilet'.
Adult sized changing table & hoist
This equipment is not required under any current laws, changing places toilets are not compulsory under any building regulations. Businesses are not under any obligation to provide them for their customers, despite them providing toilets for other customers, including a standard disabled toilet (which by the way is usually just a slightly larger room with a handrail added by the loo!)
Because there are no requirements to provide changing places toilets, our children, and many other young people and adults throughout the UK, have no option than to use a nappy if they wish to leave the house.
Imagine that, the choice between wearing a nappy or being housebound.
And even if you opt for the nappy, you have to be willing to sit in it until you can get home to have it changed once you've relieved yourself in it. That's a pretty grim choice isn't it? But it's one I have to make for my son every day, and there are other mums throughout the country who have faced this for years and years before me.
It is important to point out that this issue isn't just reserved for disabled children of course, disabled children grow up and become disabled adults. But disability can affect anyone at any time in their life and this issue could affect anyone suffering from a stroke, being involved in an accident or being diagnosed with a condition such as MND or MS.
If you cannot sit or stand unaided, or if you need help to use a toilet then this is currently your only option unless you are lucky enough to be somewhere near one of the 976 changing places toilets there are currently available in the UK.
It is estimated that 1 in 260 people in the UK needs a changing places toilet, I never thought I would need one but without one my son cannot use the toilet when we are not at home and therefore he cannot ever be fully toilet trained.
I'm sure readers will be thinking that it isn't up to large businesses or councils to provide this 'expensive' facility, but ask yourself this...
If those same businesses are providing you with a toilet, why isn't it up to them? They know that by providing one for you, you'll spend more time there and inevitably more money - disabled people have money to spend too!
If it isn't up to a business to provide this type of toilet, then is it really up to them to provide a toilet at all? How would you feel if they did away with toilets altogether? Would you be happy to resort to wearing a nappy? Or would you stay at home?
Now you know about this issue, are you happy to sit back and do nothing? How will you feel next time you pass a severely disabled person, knowing they are probably sitting in a nappy because it's the only thing they can do to be able to leave the house? Are you comfortable knowing that if something was to happen to you or your loved ones, there might not be a toilet they could use in your town centre, shopping mall, supermarket, cinema etc.?
Society needs to change, we need to work together to make some big changes so that the most vulnerable members of our community are having their most basic needs catered for. It is up to us all to make this happen and we can do that by telling people about this issue, asking large businesses and councils to make some changes and to demand a change in the law so that all of the UK's children stand a chance of being able to be 'potty trained' in the future.
You can read more about this here