|Cameron's Change Bag|
A few days ago I had to take Cameron to the toilet while we were in a public place. Again just like when we went to the Zoo the disabled toilets were inside the male and female toilets. I couldn't go into the male toilets so I had to take my sixteen year old son into the female toilets. I felt incredibly self conscious doing this and was relieved when nobody was around to see us when we went in but when we went to leave there was a young teenage girl washing her hands. I waited till she left and then walked Cameron through.
Why are toilets set out like this? I couldn't even just walk straight into the cubicle I had to walk across all the basins to get to the disabled toilet.
That then brings me to the actual toilet. As I noted later the sign for the disabled toilet did show a person in a wheelchair and that is exactly what the toilet was set up for - a person in a wheelchair. Not a carer toileting or changing a person with special needs.
This frustrates me so much. The disability community is made up of a lot more people than those in wheelchairs. When I sat and chatted to my sister afterwards about the toilet situation it occurred to me that people really have no idea what happens when you take a person with special needs to the toilet. I think people think that if the person is walking then they are sitting on a toilet. Life really isn't that simple.
When we take Cameron to a public toilet we have a change bag which we often have to either balance on a wet basin or place on the floor. There is never any bench to place it on or a hook. Then we have to help Cameron get undressed - where do we put his clothes? Again on the wet basin or on the floor. If we are changing a dirty nappy we have shoes and socks and sometimes it is easier if the top comes off too. Can you picture us squashed into a normal toilet stall doing this. Don't forget if it's me I have my handbag as well.
A wet nappy is easiest but for a dirty nappy we need to clean Cameron's bottom. We have trained Cameron well and he turns around and bends over for us - in a normal toilet stall that would put his head in the toilet or banging on the toilet door with us sitting on the toilet. In a disabled toilet I often end up on the floor. Just think about some of the public toilets you have used and the state of the floors.
Poor Cameron is always searching for something to hold on to so he can balance and lift his legs for us and sometimes he gets very frustrated and hot and bothered so he growls and yells. Picture the looks as we leave the bathroom.
When Cameron was younger he couldn't stand up to be changed, he was walking but we had to lay him down to change him, his balance wasn't good enough for him to stand. You can not lay a five year old on a baby change table so where is he supposed to lay - on the floor? We've had to do it, laying fold up change mats on the floor to try and stop any cross infection happening from the toilet floor. Thus we were on the floor too.
Then how do you get shoes back on, there is a phase between learning to stand and having good balance where the only way you can put on shoes is if you sit down - where? On the floor? On the toilet? When you don't know how to use a toilet sometimes there is a fear of sitting on the toilet or you are a bit small and slip into the bowl or the situation is so strange that the distraction factor interferes with getting the shoes on. On occasions we have walked out and found somewhere else to put Cameron's shoes back on but that can be unsafe in some situations.
So if you see a woman in her forties walking into to a woman's toilet with a teenage boy it might be me or it could be another mother or a carer working and just trying to do her job. And what on earth does a Dad or a male carer do with a young girl or woman? Trust me - those nappies don't last all day and bladders can't be held all day.
And how is the parent or carer supposed to go to the toilet?
I wish people would stop and think for a minute when they plan public toilets. It wouldn't be hard to include grab rails, hooks and a flat solid surface for people to sit and be changed on. How about thinking about the parent/carer and the layout of the toilet so the parent/carer isn't on the toilet unable to stop their charge from opening the door for all to see.
All people should be able to go to the toilet with dignity and the other day when I had to take Cameron into the women's toilets I don't think that respected his dignity or mine.