Did you know that there are 13.3 million disabled people in the UK? Or that 7% of all British children have a disability? Did you imagine that 44% of pensioners would be disabled?
That’s a lot of people isn’t it. All with diverse types of disabilities, all affected in different ways.
Some might have sight loss, others may be wheelchair users. There are people who have been disabled since birth, others who have acquired a disability because of an accident or illness.
Some people may have a disability which remains the same throughout their life whereas others may have conditions which worsen over time.
You wouldn’t be able to put all these people into the same category of disability because all of them would experience different things with their different conditions.
We wouldn’t expect them to all use the same type of wheelchair. We wouldn’t expect them to all have the same adaptions in their homes.
We wouldn’t expect them to all deal with their disability in the same way.
So why would we expect them to all be able to use the same toilet simply because we slap a disabled/accessible sticker on the door?
Why would we assume that by simply adding some grab rails all of those people, with such wide-ranging conditions, would be able to use that facility?
I know that unless you are affected by disability, whether directly or indirectly, it probably doesn’t even occur to you that the so called “accessible” toilet isn’t actually accessible to all 13.3 million disabled people it is there for.
But if it were pointed out to you and you were in a position to make a change, would you?
I’m sure I would.
I know some businesses, such as Ikea, have and are making changes to ensure they provide better toilet facilities for disabled customers.
But why aren’t more businesses realising the impact their poor facilities are having on customers?
If it were pointed out to you that disabled children were having to lay on your toilet floor to have their nappies changed would you make sure you did something to stop that?
If you heard that a disabled person couldn’t use your toilet because they couldn’t get out of their wheelchair would you be disgusted by the thought that they had to sit in their own mess because you had failed to provide them with a hoist?
I would. And I would expect businesses like Tesco, Marks and Spencers and Cineworld to feel the same.
But I don’t think they do.
I don’t think they care that this is the reality for hundreds of thousands of people who visit their stores.
I’ve told them and many campaigners just like me that not all 13.3million disabled customers can use their toilets. But it feels like they’re not listening.
If there was a risk of 13.3million potential customers not being able to get to a check-out, or use their credit card, would they make changes immediately to ensure they didn’t lose money?
I’m sure they wouldn’t tell a single person there is a check-out they can use elsewhere, they wouldn’t consider sending them to another business to spend their cash, so why send people elsewhere to spend a penny?
These big businesses are failing to recognise that by not upgrading their disabled toilet facilities, they are losing money every single day.
Because families like mine can’t spend time, and therefore money, anywhere that doesn’t provide a toilet for our disabled family members.
Businesses should realise that if they upgrade their toilet facilities to ensure that they include a hoist, changing bench, plenty of space and all the other requirements of a changing places style toilet, they could be providing facilities for all disabled guests.
Because whilst one size does not fit all when it comes to disability, if you cater for the most disabled you are already catering for the least disabled.
Some businesses have already seen the positive effect that providing fully accessible toilet facilities.
Cornwall Services opened a space to change facility last year and have seen their facility used up to 40 times a day!
Ikea understand the need for these facilities and are currently installing them in most of their stores with the rest to follow.
I really hope that at some point soon other big UK businesses will catch up and realise the importance of these facilities, not just to those who need to use them, but also to their bottom line.