Thanks to the support of specialist accessible toilet installer, Closomat, Sarah Brisdion, a parent-carer and activist, age 44 from the New Forest, has released four new* ‘loo selfie’ photographs of herself sat on a Closomat Wash-dry toilet, to raise awareness of the need for Changing Places.
Changing Places toilets are 12m2 and include an adult-sized changing bed, ceiling-tracking hoist, height-adjustable sink, peninsular WC with space for carers at both sides and a privacy screen. It is also recommended by British Standards that the facilities include a wash-dry toilet in place of a conventional WC, for those who find it difficult or are unable to wipe themselves, as this further enhances a person’s dignity and independence.
These facilities are designed to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and/or physical disabilities, who are unable to use a standard accessible toilet when away from home. Without them, disabled adults and children are being dangerously lifted from wheelchairs, putting their health at serious risk by withholding fluids, lying on urine-soaked toilet floors to have continence items changed, or not going out at all, across the country!
The ‘loo selfie’ images specifically target cinemas, healthcare, hospitality and theatres; four of the sectors that campaigners believe are still desperately behind in providing these life-changing toilets.
Speaking about the photographs, Sarah said: “As a nation, we are not keen on talking about going to the toilet! It’s a bit taboo and is hardly glamorous, so on the face of it, the Changing Places campaign doesn’t pull at the heartstrings in the way a lot of charities and causes do. This means it often gets overlooked. So you have to get creative to get this campaign noticed! These pictures have been deliberately designed to grab attention, in the hope people read-on and learn from the shocking experiences behind them.
Sarah continued: “Some people might criticise the images. They might think they are undignified, embarrassing or even attention-seeking. But I can assure you, I welcome the attention if it raises awareness and results in more Changing Places toilets!”
Sarah’s son Hadley, age 12, has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair full time. Sarah says: “Hadley needs Changing Places to use the toilet safely. He requires the peninsular toilet so that we can help him transfer on to the loo from his wheelchair, the extra space (particularly with his powered wheelchair which is cumbersome) and the changing bench to remove and replace his clothing as necessary. I also need Changing Places if I am out alone with Hadley, as I cannot leave him unattended whilst I nip in the ladies. I need the privacy screen to preserve my modesty (and his) when using the toilet. He is almost a teenager. It wouldn’t be appropriate, and he wouldn’t be comfortable in the room with me otherwise. The same goes for if he is out with a Personal Assistant or staff from school.
“Any indignity I feel sharing an image of myself on a toilet, is nothing compared to how my son feels when he has had to lie on a wet, cold, smelly toilet floor, simply because he is disabled. Or when I have to awkwardly carry him (he’s almost the same size as me!) to the toilet when his powerchair won’t fit in the standard accessible loo. As well as being physically challenging and dangerous, the psychological impact of having to put up with these sorts of scenarios, cannot be understated. His physical and mental health is my priority which fuels my drive to help ensure there are as many Changing Places toilets out there as possible for my son and everyone who needs them.”
Hadley said: “I’ve had to lie on lots of toilet floors since I was a toddler and it is disgusting. I don’t understand why places think disabled people like me are worth less than anyone else. All I want to do is go out with my family and friends, without having to worry about where and when I can go to the toilet or if I am going to get ill from a toilet floor or by having to hold my pee in.”
Claire Haymes, Changing Places Coordinator at Closomat, said: “There are currently only 1878*** registered Changing Places toilets in the whole of the UK. Put into context, there are more regular toilets than this in Wembley stadium alone! It’s no wonder disabled people still feel short-changed when it comes to such a basic human right as access to a safe toilet. We all need to pee, some people just need some extra support to do so. That doesn’t mean they have any less right to a dignified solution. We have been championing the cause and installing Changing Places toilets since the campaign began and are proud to support Sarah and Hadley as they continue to fight for more.”
Sarah’s #WeAllNeedToPee campaign has been supported by disabled adults and children, campaigners and carers, who have shared their personal experiences of life with and without Changing Places.
You can read about how theatre-lover, Kerrie, regularly risks her health to watch the shows she loves here.
Read Ella and Luda’s thoughts on what it is like to socialise with your friends in a world that doesn’t ensure everyone has access to a safe toilet here.
Brody, Laura, Sarah and Hadley say healthcare settings are disabling the patients they are supposed to support, here.
Shelley and Fraser, share their experiences of using the toilet at the cinema when it doesn’t cater for their needs, here.
*Sarah gained global media coverage of the need for Changing Places in 2017 with her #LooAdvent social media campaign, that used photographs taken of herself on the toilet wearing Christmas costumes for every day of advent. The success of this saw multiple Changing Places installed, celebrity supporters and was the inspiration behind this new set of images.
**Under British Standards (BS8300:2018), a Changing Places should include a peninsular WC, full room cover ceiling-track hoist, adult-sized, height-adjustable changing bed, washbasin and privacy screen. The Standard also ‘recommends’ the inclusion of a wash-dry toilet in place of a conventional WC, as this further enhances a person’s dignity and independence. The wash and dry toilet goes way beyond conventional accessibility: it meets cultural hygiene practices and is increasingly perceived as the ultimate in personal hygiene and dignity.