Helpful or not – petitions

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There are over 80 petitions on Change.org calling for signatures to back calls to governments and businesses for accessible toilets. Most are by individuals calling particularly for Changing Places toilets.

Are petitions helpful?

Psychologically petitions and demonstrations by disabled people and carers are useful – providing the 'I feel I am doing something rather than nothing'. People who sign genuinely want to say 'this needs to change'. However, the reality is that petitions rarely achieve results.

No amount of signatures is going to change the law or monitor adherence to building regulations. In the UK, the government have heard, via parliamentary debates, how we need accessible toilets. They end with empty promises.

As we speak the draft of revised access standards has been drawn up – setting British standards for what could be used in buildings which last over 50 years. They don't include any change to toilet provision. They are based on the dimensions of wheelchairs, for example, from 20 years ago. Petitions won't impact these.

Dilution of support

Petitions aim for x number of signatures …. people might sign one or two but 80? If campaigns were centralised into one petition there could be thousands of supporters rather than a few hundred.

Change in strategy

The movement to ensure toilets for all is disjointed. Often it's based on promoting the needs of children rather than the needs of disabled people of all ages. People with obesity, dementia and autism are often totally ignored. Many campaigns are based on the need for hoists and changing benches – yet we still have toilets being built that are supposed to follow strict building regulations, but don't for 'independent' disabled people. There are failings at every level. Equality laws do nothing to persuade businesses that disabled people need accessible toilets.

What can we do to actually make a difference?

  • Share a petition rather than recreate one for yourself
  • Look out for opportunities to comment on building regulation guidance, local access consultations, health consultations etc.
  • At every opportunity provide feedback about toilet access. Use social media, review websites, council feedback forms, patient feedback cards at hospitals etc.
  • Use formal complaints procedures.
  • Write to your MP
  • Provide witness statements for parliamentary debates

Sounds like a lot of effort? That's why it's easier to sign a petition and have our social guilt relieved – we've done all we can, right? Now everything will be ok?

No it won't – but deep down you know that.

Launching our new campaign

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Today we launch our new campaign #BiggerIsBetter [Bigger Is Better].

We hear over and over again how much people struggle with the size of wheelchair accessible toilets.

Unfortunately, the size suggested by building regulation guidance is far too small for the types of wheelchairs and scooters that people use today.

We need to raise awareness and explain why meeting  building regulations does not mean they are meeting their legal duties to provide usable toilets under the Equality Act [Disability Discrimination]. Very few businesses are aware of this.

Wheelchair users can often not get into these toilet spaces, turn around or transfer safely. They become unusable. An unusable toilet might as well not be built.

Every toilet that gets built to this size could mean decades of  being unable to use that toilet. If nothing happens now – the future will remain bleak.

If the standards are not going to change, then the only way forward is to reach out to as many businesses and new developments as possible and encourage them to see that bigger is better.

 

We need to encourage larger spaces and where possible Space to Change or Changing Places. Without larger spaces, wheelchair and scooter users will continue to struggle to live as equal citizens in the UK.

Please join the campaign and help spread the word. Share our posters, pictures and your experiences.

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No toilet = No inclusion

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A simple message for International Day of Disabled People.

I’ll say it again and again and again until the day I die.

How are we (disabled people) supposed to be included and have opportunities to do the regular stuff (work, education, leisure, travel, family life) and stay healthy if we can’t go out because there are no usable toilets we can access.

No toilet = no inclusion = a message ‘we don’t give a &*£@’.

We need things to change NOW please.

Yours Sincerely, a person who can rarely find a usable toilet.


 

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Guest Blog – Inclusivity? Let’s talk toilets.

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Thank you to our guest Blogger this month – Gillian Kemp.

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Gill is the founder of Truckers’ Toilets UK www.facebook.com/TTUKcampaign

and joint founder of Public Toilets UK www.facebook.com/PTUKcampaign  – both are facebook campaigns which aim to improve toilet provision in the UK.

She has been involved with the British Toilet Association [BTA] for a number of years and has given evidence on the effects of public toilet closures to the Health & Social Care Committee at the Welsh Assembly.


Inclusivity? Let’s talk toilets

Mention the word ‘TOILETS’ and what’s the reaction?  Titters? Silence? Embarrassed looks? Jokey responses?  Yet once you get past all that everyone has an opinion of some sort on the subject.  And toilets – whatever you think of them – are needed by all of us several times a day.  Why oh why then aren’t they a regulatory requirement?  That is what the campaign PUBLIC TOILETS UK is all about.  We are trying to gather evidence to show that public toilets are essential not only for our health but also vital to tourism and the economy.  ‘Holding on’ should not be an option.  It can damage the bladder and bowel – and reduce concentration if you’re driving.

In the meantime Councils are closing facilities when we need more.  On the one hand we are told to get out and about but without access to toilets many of us are fearful of stepping outside the door.

Those of us with disabilities whether visible or hidden have additional needs when it comes to toilets.  Accessible toilets suitable for wheelchair users vary greatly.  In some places they are still labelled ‘Disabled toilet’.  Well, to me – and I’m not alone, a ‘disabled toilet’ is one that is not working!!!!   I visited one recently where I couldn’t even open the door – and I’m not in a wheelchair! – so perhaps that one was named correctly!  There are British Standards and building regulations related to toilets but what was appropriate several years ago is, in many instances, no longer suitable for today’s needs.

For those of us with ‘hidden’ disabilities such as ilostomies, diabetes etc space is also an issue, so we can attend to our particular needs.  Others of us with urgency issues such as IBS cannot stand in a queue and need prompt access to a toilet.  We may even need to change our clothes. The only solution to date is to use the Accessible Toilet and I know I’m not the only one to be embarrassed to find a wheelchair user waiting outside.

Going to the toilet is not a choice.  We shouldn’t have to fight for access to a loo.  But the fact is that currently, we do.  Toilets are a prime example of inclusivity – currently you might say ‘exclusivity’. In the 21st century we are still changing a disabled person on the floor.  This is not acceptable.  Thankfully Changing Places facilities www.changing-places.org  are increasing, but there are still many places without one.  If there are no suitable facilities then we are not an inclusive society.

How can we address this?  Where to start?  We must begin talking LOUDLY about toilets.  If you’re embarrassed get over it and join us.  Change won’t happen overnight but if we work together we can begin creating an inclusive society – but we have to start at the bottom!!!!!

Disability toilets more about lowering barriers

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As true in Singapore as it is in the UK – accessible toilets need to be for disabled people only.

“Unlike priority seats on MRT trains, users cannot see and give up the cubicle [accessible toilet] when someone who needs it more shows up.”

Vox Nostra | A Voice Of Our Own

Straits Times Forum, 3 September 2015 (print edition)

The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) agrees that public education should be done alongside a system that limits public access to disability facilities (“Get public on board to refrain from using toilets for the disabled” by Mr Edmund Wan of the Handicaps Welfare Association; Monday).

Jurong Point’s move should be complemented with education to help change behaviour over time.

To clarify DPA’s earlier comment that Jurong Point’s scheme misses the point, it is our position that merely controlling access to toilets for people with disabilities does not tackle the wider issue of changing the mindsets of people who would abuse those facilities (“Tap-in to use toilet for the disabled / Malls ‘will study card access system’“; last Friday, and “Good way to overcome abuse of toilets” by Mr Tan Sin Liang; Forum Online, yesterday).

Limiting access alone…

View original post 326 more words

Can non-disabled people use accessible toilets?

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This question comes up so frequently, so I’m blogging about it again.

Here’s the scenario. There is a queue for toilets – but the accessible one is not occupied. Should non-disabled people use it?

  • If you are queuing and can hold your bladder/bowel then continuing to queue would be the best course of action.
  • If you need the baby changing table, and the only one is in a unisex accessible toilet – then use it to change your baby.
  • If you are a carer/PA, and need to stay with a severely disabled person at all times, both people may need to go into an accessible toilet.

* Note that UK building standards suggest a baby changing table should not be located in an accessible toilet. 

The key aim is to enable people who only have a moments notice to empty their bladder/bowel/bag , to be reassured that the chances of a vacant accessible toilet is a good one.  Companies should make sure ‘availability’ is part of being accessible by providing enough toilets and separate parent/baby changing facilities.