Sunday, 29 January 2012

Disabled Toilets Frustrate Me

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.


  1. Maybe we could send copies of this to all councils/shires/toilet builders until they get it!

  2. I appreciate this a lot, Although Peyton is only 2 we are already running into toilet issues. She has CP, TCS & Neurogenic bladder (amongst other things). The thought of having to lay her on a floor to cath her and/or change her in public restrooms is just daunting.
    You are right that people really just don't know!

  3. This is something I worry about already and H isn't two yet! I assumed it would be easier if he could weight bear at least. It didn't occur to me even then there are difficulties. I agree we should approach councils with this information!

  4. I hear you! I always have to take Nick into the Ladies!!!

  5. Glad I'm not alone, it seems to be an unspoken topic.

  6. I so understand wher you are coming from...although my son is in a wheelchair but is unable to stand let alone sit unaided. There needs to be adults size changing tables and there needs to be hoist systems, grab rails etc. You name it disabled toilets need it. I have to lift my son who's nearly seven out of his wheelchair and either onto a baby changing table or like you say, on changing mats on the toilet floor. He is tube fed and I dread to think about the germs lurking about esp when most 'joe public' leave a public toilet without washing their hands. Terrible in todays world, time to make a stand I think!!

  7. people need to here this they need to cater for disabled children and adults as well

  8. Was thrilled to see our local leisure centre put change tables for adults in with curtains around. Still in Male and Female change rooms so a female carer has to take male client/child into female change rooms but the curtains are a start and the tables lower and raise and support the whole body then just wipe over to disinfect.

  9. Dawnie - There is really no consideration given to hygiene for those who are more prone to infection. It must be a strain for you lifting your son - I didn't even consider hoists, you're right.

    jrbond - I am so pleased to hear that at least one group has considered people's needs even if they didn't consider the male/female angle.

    Annonymous - I agree - the more we all talk and share our concerns the odds are that eventually people who need to be told will find out and realize. Please feel free to share my blog post.

    I am really pleased that other people feel the same way as me. Lets all raise our voices and hopefully people will take notice.

  10. Sadly I think that a lot of people with severe disabilities of all kinds just do not get out for long because toilets are so limited in what they offer. It is very hard for me to toilet my dd in a public toilet as there are no hoists. Sometimes I can swing her out of her chair onto the toilet and then back into the chair onto a fresh nappy, but it is a difficult and sweaty job, well done for raising this issue x

  11. I think they need more "family restrooms". Some of the stores I frequent have these and it is very nice to be able to take my son (who is in a wheelchair) to use the restroom.

  12. And dont forget, even if they are able to use the toilets with relatively no assistance, most places now have automatic flushers! Those ruined potty training twice for my autistic daughter, thankfully I got a tip from another mom about putting post it notes over the sensor but it took several years before she would go without a sticker or hand covering the light. As she gets older, we've had to do what we can, but my husband no longer feels it appropriate for her to go in the mens room. Families like ours are often left to figure it out for ourselves, unfortunately

  13. This issue is one that affects so many people and yet the general public has no idea. It's time the powers that be became aware because this is discrimination.

  14. I just blogged about this very thing, and someone sent me a link to your post. There is a program to get better disabled toilets in the UK, the link's in my post.

  15. I just read your post Phoebe, my girlfriend connected the two of us. Great post.

    I took at look at the Changing Places link - how fantastic, it is exactly what we all need. I am so happy that somebody has taken up the fight.