My son, William, has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is a full-time wheelchair user.
His disability is at the most severe end of the scale which means he can’t sit or stand up.
That makes life awkward but we make the best of it and the only time we face real issues is when we venture out of the house.
Because of his disabilities I have become a big advocate for changing places toilets because without them it is almost impossible for him to use a toilet when we go out.
He can’t stand up so I need to lay him down to remove his clothes and then lift him onto the toilet. He is almost 9 so he’s pretty heavy already but when he’s bigger it’ll be impossible for me to lift him.
And without a changing places toilet, where am I meant to lay him down?
The toilet floor?
While asking businesses and services to provide changing places toilets I have become used to hearing excuse after excuse as to why they can’t or won’t upgrade their facilities.
But these are the five things I am really tired of hearing...
1. We are trialling Changing Places toilets in some of our stores.
This is something I’ve been hearing from Tesco for over 3 years now, but they still have no intention of installing them in their other stores.
But when I am standing in their store sobbing with my son screaming next to me because he needs the toilet, you’d expect them to move on from trials and see the need in front of their faces.
I set up a petition to supermarkets recently, you can sign it here.
2. We are DDA compliant
I can’t tell you how angry this response makes me. Firstly, the DDA (disability discrimination act) was replaced by the Equality Act 2010 8 years ago!
However, regardless of them believing they are compliant, I would hope that the knowledge that a disabled child has to lay on their dirty toilet floors might make them realise it isn’t enough to simply be compliant.
I’d hope they’d want to go over and above that legislation. But they don’t, and it breaks my heart that my son isn’t considered an important enough customer to make changes to provide for him.
3. Changing places toilets are more suited to a shopping centre
This once confuses me so much because it usually comes from a large business who provides toilets to all their customers, often with 2 disabled toilets, baby changing facilities and a baby feeding room.
If they don’t want those customers to leave their store, for fear they won’t return and spend their money, why would they want us to leave to go elsewhere?
4. We understand the need for changing places toilets
Yep sounds bizarre that this would wind me up doesn’t it! But it is almost always followed by a bit BUT… but we don’t have the space / budget / etc.
And usually involves some other platitudes that are meant to make me think they really do care about the fact my son can’t use a toilet in their stores when really I know they don’t give two hoots.
If they did, this sentence would end with, “and we will be installing one ASAP”, instead of, “but…”
5. We comply with building regulations
That may well be the case but that doesn’t help my son! Just because building regulations don’t call for a changing places toilet it doesn’t mean it isn’t vital for customers.
Baby changing and feeding rooms are also not required under building regulations but that doesn’t stop businesses from providing them for customers or visitors!
You can sign this petition to call on the government to change building regulations to include changing places toilets.