Going to the toilet is a basic human need, isn’t it?
So access to a suitable toilet should be a basic human right. Right?
If you’re severely disabled and cannot use a normal disabled toilet, or have other medical needs, you may be trapped at home, only able to go out between toilet breaks.
You may not be able to move from your wheelchair to the toilet because of the severity if your disabilities, or you may have incontinence or toilet training did not work for you, perhaps due to intellectual disability.
Many people in this situation have carers who find different ways to manage, at least for a while. They often change their children’s nappies on a dirty toilet floor, until they can no longer lift their growing offspring, or their backs suffer irreparable damage. I use a buggy that tilts so I can dress my daughter after using the toilet or simply change her. But both actions are exhausting and dangerous for me and sometimes even for her. I’ve looked at buying a wheelchair accessible camper van that would have a toilet on board, but none are available in Ireland. The alternative is to venture out between toilet breaks or be trapped at home.
Is this acceptable in a society that calls itself civilised and aims to be inclusive?
I don’t think so.
What is needed are extra large disabled toilets with a bed for changing and a hoist to lift the disabled person out of their chair, as well as all the other facilities you’d expect. These toilets are called Changing Places and I use this one in a school with my daughter at weekends.
But there are only a couple of public facilities in the whole country.
And no one seems to care, as special needs campaigner Aisling McNifficent found out when she brought her disabled son Jack to the revamped cinema in the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.
“Firstly I was 20 mins finding parking because there were no available wheelchair spaces, despite promises that more would be added with the new development. This is very important to us as Jack immune suppressed and can’t get cold or wet so we have to park near the door. Then I needed to change my son’s continence pad. I have spoken to several different managers about the lack of a changing area and was so upset when the new cinema was built without one! The only changing station is in the middle of the ladies toilet and is only suitable for a young baby. If it was even a standard size it would be better and situated in a wheelchair toilet but the wheelchair toilets are all just toilets.
“I’m so upset about the lack of facilities and the attitude of management who basically told us that we all have to deal with things in our lives! That is completely missing the point. Liffey valley shopping centre is very near to a number of facilities for the disabled, so it should be equipped to cater for EVERYONE. No help was offered, and we had to change our tickets for a later film and go into the shopping centre to use a larger disabled toilet there, and even that had no hoist or changing bed. I have been asking for a proper changing area since before the new build. There is absolutely no excuse. My concerns were not passed on. Or worse, nobody cares!
“We will not let this go. We go to the cinema A LOT as Jack loves it. and there are so many things he can’t do…”
For children and adults like Jack, a Changing Place is the equivalent of a toilet for the rest of us. If Liffey Valley and other places do not install them, the day may come when Jack will no longer be able to go to the cinema or anywhere else.
He will truly be trapped at home. And that is very very wrong.
More about Changing Places in Ireland can be found here:
There are also a Facebook page and group:
Shares and RTs of this post will be greatly appreciated. It has been written in support of Aisling, my own daughter, and the SEND bloggers’ #phantomloos campaign that takes place on October 31st.