Let It Go!
As part of Learning Disability Week one of our fellow campaigners Sheri Skelton gives an insight into just how inclusive a Changing Place facility can be. Many people understand the need for Changing Places facilities for people with severe disabilities. But what of the other groups who may benefit from the use of these facilities.
Florence has no medical diagnosis, but has some Developmental Delays, Learning Delays and Sensory difficulties. She is under a Paediatrician for these, but at the moment it is a case of wait and see. Florence also sees a Speech and Language Therapist and is supported at Nursery.
Florence is ‘almost’ fully toilet train during the day. It wasn’t plain sailing and is all very new.
One of the major hurdles was she had a major fear of ‘letting go’.
We tried everything.. bribes, sticker charts even changing some of the words to the Frozen song “Let it Go”. Despite pressure from Nursery I just knew Florence wasn’t the sort of girl that can be pushed. Eventually we had the break through. One time she was so bursting as I suggested sitting on the potty she forgot herself and ‘Let Go’.
Thanks to her YouTube obsession with ‘Surprise Egg Opening’ Videos we managed to encourage her to keep going with the promise of Kinder Eggs. Gradually we replaced eggs with stickers.
For my Husbands recent Birthday we took a family day out to Brighton. We decided to keep her nappy on to save accidents while travelling. (although on this trip we discovered Florence gets travel sick)
We arrived and started walking towards the beach past the Pier. Florence announced she needed the toilet. I knew there was a toilet on the Pier (admittedly I had forgotten how far down it was) so I dumped the picnic basket and other bags by my husbands feet grabbing Florence in one hand, My eight year old Lilly in the other (as she decided she needed to go too) and hurried through the crowds towards the toilets.
Lilly was now bursting, so went into a cubicle. I told her not to lock it as I would be outside. It was then obvious, most likely due to her earlier upset tummy, a toilet cubicle wasn’t an option for Florence.
We were then met with her first Nemesis The fold down Baby Changing Table. “Its wobbling…. I falling” she screamed. Florence has a masters degree in tantrums and decided to show her skills while 3ft in the air.
I simultaneously tried to calm her, clean up the ‘poo explosion’ which meant a full changed of outfit and keep an eye on Lilly’s toilet door.
Florence calmed down just enough to hear the flush of someone else’s toilet. “its loud it loud”. I managed to calm her once again.
Lilly had finished and I was just about to put Florence shoes back on, Then it happened… The arch enemy of the public toilet, The ‘Automatic Hand Dryer’. (I generally plea with people not to use it while we are in public toilets till we leave, but with all the drama I hadn’t a chance). I scooped up a petrified screaming Florence and her shoes, then found a bench outside.
It was then sitting on the bench, holding Florence tightly as she muttered incoherent words between sobs. I had a thought, “What if we had used a Changing Places Toilet?”
That whole meltdown could have been avoided.
A Changing Places Toilet would have had a big adult sized bench, No risk of her falling off. There would of been no unexpected flushing of toilets. No ridiculously loud automatic hand dryers. Lilly could have been doing her business without me worrying if she was going to be locked in or walked in on by a stranger.
I can not be the only family who would benefit from a toilet facility like this. What about others whose families members with such sensory issues or have a learning disability?
Mencap – The Voice of Learning Disability say;
“There are around 250,000 people in the country whose basic needs are not being met by standard accessible toilets”
“Standard toilets do not meet the need of the thousands of people including 40,000 people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD)”
I thought of a friend of mine whose boy has Autism. Before he was toilet trained at aged 7 she had change him on toilet floors. Now he is toilet trained she still has trouble when out and about as he hates public toilets. She describes public toilets as “Sensory Overdrive Hell”. Others can find the openness and overcrowding of public toilets distressing. The noises and smells can also be overwhelming. My friend often uses disabled toilets with her son. But feels that because his disability isn’t of the physical type many people pass judgements. She feels like a cheat. She also has had negative comments from strangers regarding this.
But what if…
The only option wasn’t either Standard Disabled Toilets (to suit some disabilities) or Baby Changing Facilities? (for well just Babies)
What if their was toilet facilities that could suit every bodies toileting needs?
What if toilets such as Changing Places and Spaces to Change were not only seen as an expensive, excessive, elective addition, But as the standard.
A Fully Inclusive Toilet could be used by those with Physical Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, Parents with toddlers, Elderly people the list is endless.
In addition if places wanted to add further toileting facilities as a plus i.e. Baby changing rooms, Baby feeding rooms, Basic Disabled toilet they could do.
Fully Accessible toilets should be the new standard.
Shouldn’t this be what everyone is aiming for?