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