Imagine being denied the basic human need to go to the loo; being unable to access a toilet whenever you need to. Imagine having to hold it in all day, every day. Having no choice but to strictly limit your fluid intake to the point where you cannot risk drinking from morning until evening.
This was my life until 2011, when I underwent medically unnecessary surgery to insert a suprapubic catheter. Of course I didn’t want an operation or an indwelling catheter. By no means was this an easy fix, believe me! But I just couldn’t do it anymore; I was making myself ill and relied on assistance from others in order to carry out the seemingly simple task of toileting. No longer could I inflict undue stress on my body and mind.
So, I resigned myself to the only option available to me, that being the suprapubic catheter. I no longer depend on other people, nor do I have to struggle and suffer the indignity of using small and frankly ill-adapted disabled loos. But, 250,000 disabled people in the UK still do.
The truth about disabled toilets
Often there is not enough room to fit a wheelchair in disabled toilets, let alone space to transfer, adjust clothing and accommodate a carer too. Baby changing facilities get in the way, grab rails are too few and carelessly installed, the toilets themselves are too low, and hoists… what hoists?!
The 19th July 2017 marked the second Changing Places Awareness Day and eleven years since the campaign began. I’ll admit it’s only relatively recently, through social media groups, that I first heard of Changing Places toilets. Though there are now 1000 registered Changing Places toilets across the UK, I have yet to see one.
What is a Changing Places toilet?
Each registered Changes Places toilet includes:
- a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench
- a tracking hoist system, or mobile hoist where not possible
- adequate space for the disabled person and up to two carers
- a centrally placed toilet with room either side
- a screen or curtain for privacy
- wide tear off paper roll to cover the bench
- a large waste bin for disposable pads
- a non-slip floor
To support and raise awareness of the need for Changing Places toilets, Muscular Dystrophy UK established the #FitToBurst campaign (Keep up to date on Twitter!)
As a Trailblazer myself, I offered my thoughts in response to the question (posed on Facebook): What does it mean to you to have more Changing Places toilets?
Here is my full response:
To be honest I’ve never seen or used one. I don’t know if it’s because I live semi-rurally (are they located predominantly in cities/larger towns?)
If so, I think it’s important that there are Changing Places loos in smaller towns, villages and more rurally as there are people in need in these locations too.
The lack of such a facility locally makes me feel restricted, excluded from society and considered less important. I don’t know if I’m correct in assuming that Changing Places toilets are mostly in cities, but if so, it makes me wonder why. Is it a funding issue? Is it ignorance, i.e. the belief that disabled people don’t live rurally?
The majority of disabled toilets I have used throughout the years have been vastly inadequate, filthy, often neglected or used for storage!
As I say I’ve never seen or used a Changing Places loo – unfortunately. But I can think of so many people locally, young and old, who would greatly benefit from having access to one.
To read what other Trailblazers have to say click here.
Find out much more about Changing Places by visiting their website.