More than an inconvenience
recent report reveals how many people plan their journeys around toilets, and that “accessible” toilets are, in fact, inaccessible to many disabled people.
Several participants, who require a hoist and changing bench to use the toilet (sometimes known as
Changing Places toilets), discussed only visiting venues with these types of toilets, or not leaving home at all. One Changing Places user pointed out that when these toilets are available, they’re usually in “family friendly” venues such as zoos and theme parks, but rarely in offices, pubs and restaurants.
Two mothers of teenage Changing Places users spoke of days out, family meals and holidays that were abandoned, stressful or undignified for their children. One described laying her daughter on an airport floor when no changing bench was available, and creating walls of suitcases to provide some privacy. Another said that taking a holiday was “something that actually fills you with dread” due to the lack of suitable toilets.
We were told about a wheelchair user who was unable to reach the toilet on a plane, so had to urinate under a blanket into a bowl which was then carried away by an air hostess. Many participants also spoke about not drinking or eating all day and “holding on” – this sometimes meant not using the toilet for up to 18 hours a day.
Although we all visit the loo daily, toilets remain largely undervalued and trivialised spaces – something that is not often talked about. They are rarely prioritised in local authority budgets and often given to the least experienced architect to deal with at the end of the design process.
Yet, as our report shows, a lack of access to adequate toilets can result in an inability to leave the house. It stops people from going about their lives, from feeling welcome and valued, and can even force people to leave – or lose – their jobs.
Everyone needs access to a toilet, yet for many people inadequate toilet provision is their daily reality. Our
research demonstrates we need to rethink our approach to toilets – and increase and diversify our provision so that everyone is considered.
Some names have been changed.
This article was first published in
The Conversation on 11 June 2018.