I’ve had some small successes but the majority of my requests to businesses to install these facilities are met with a firm no.
Recently I have been considering legal action and have been discussing what this would entail with a solicitor who specialises in equality.
But, in all honesty, lately I am starting to wonder if it is all worth the hassle and stress that campaigning is putting on me and my family.
Is the stress of campaigning harder than the stress of leaving a venue and returning home to allow my son to use the toilet?
In the summer holidays I had a, "well-documented", incident in my local Tesco store.
My son needed the toilet and was screaming the place down, I’d resigned myself to the fact that to allow him to go I would have to lay him on the toilet floor.
Something I have refused to do for many years, instead choosing to leave the venue and return home. But this time I felt it was my only option as I needed to finish my shopping, the cupboards were bare.
But the toilet floor wasn’t an option that day as it was soaking wet, whether that was water or urine I do not know, and I was not risking putting my boy on it.
So, I left. But on the way, I stopped at customer services to tell them, yet again, how important it was to put a changing places toilet in the store.
My conversation didn’t go to plan and instead of explaining the issue, I broke down and cried (a lot) on the manager, while William continued to scream and cry too.
This incident led to various emails to and from Tescos both at HQ and local level.
Eventually, I was told that as there were 3 changing places toilets within a 5-mile radius (the closest being 2.3 miles away) they had been advised by the changing places consortium that they should select stores which did not have changing places toilets locally available and that this particular store therefore did not necessarily need one.
Imagine that, the campaign leaders telling a £multi-million business that they didn’t need to provide a changing places toilet because someone else had provided one over 2 miles away and that would be sufficient.
I did not believe it and immediately presumed Tesco were making excuses.
After all, the ideal solution would be for there to be a changing places toilet in EVERY large building which provides toilets to other people so that the most vulnerable NEVER have to leave a venue simply to use a toilet.
However, I’d heard a similar excuse from a large cinema chain.
They told me that they did not feel it necessary to provide a changing places toilet as there was one approx. 1.7miles away and that they had been advised by the changing places consortium that this was sufficient.
I felt this was ridiculous and appeared on Channel 4 News saying proving how impractical it would be to use their suggested toilet if we were watching a movie.
I could have been led to believe it was just coincidence that 2 businesses were using this excuse until today when it came to light that another campaigner had been told the same thing by a different national chain, again stating this was advice they were given by the changing places consortium.
So, this makes me question why?
Why are they telling businesses that changing places toilets are not their responsibility?
Why aren’t they insisting to these businesses that it is not acceptable to expect a disabled person to leave their building, let alone travel a mile, to use a toilet?
Why aren’t they educating businesses about their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010? The duty to make reasonable adjustments.
And why are they making campaigners, like me, look stupid?
Mums and dads, brothers, sisters, carers who all work hard, in an unpaid role, during the little spare time we have because we need these facilities so desperately.
Why are we are being made to look stupid by requesting changes that we know are so essential, only for the supposed leaders of this campaign to tell the very businesses we are speaking with that in fact we don’t need these facilities as we can use one somewhere else?
Why am I wasting my time? Why am I fighting so hard to raise awareness and make changes when others are essentially ruining any chances of that happening?
I have spent a long time wondering why there aren’t more families campaigning for changing places.
Why, even after 10 years, there are so few facilities and why the families before me weren’t still campaigning. I now see why.
And that is why I have lost the will to campaign for changing places toilets. Not because they aren’t needed, desperately by so many people. Not because I cannot be bothered or don’t have time anymore.