For hundreds of thousands of disabled people, the lack of Changing Places toilets (with changing bench and hoist) highlights just how ferociously society still disables and excludes them when it comes to socialising.
Luda Balan, is 23 years old and lives in East Riding of Yorkshire. Luda has a condition called Arthrogryposis that affects her mobility. She cannot weight-bear so uses a hoist to transfer from her wheelchair and has 24/7 assistance from her PAs for all aspects of her life.
Luda says: “I’m just like any other 23-year-old. I love to be out and about with my friends, clubbing and having meals. Unfortunately for me though, I have to plan my outings a lot more than my friends. Before agreeing to go out, I have to check if places are accessible and what the toileting arrangements are like. Due to lack of Changing Places toilets, I have had to train my bladder to go for long periods without using the loo, which is really bad for my health. Despite this, when a venue doesn’t have a Changing Places available (which is most of the time) I still have to limit how much I drink so I don’t end up getting caught short or having to leave the party early to get home to use the loo. It can be very frustrating, seeing all my friends around me enjoying a drink and having the best time, while I’m having to sit there sober, just so I can last the whole activity through. Fortunately for me, I don’t need a drink to get on the dance floor, but for many people, not being able to join in completely, would stop them going out at all.
“If there were more Changing Places it would mean people like myself could enjoy their partying like all of their friends and just be able to go to the toilet whenever we needed to – something most people simply take for granted.”
Ella, age 19 and her mum Nina, find the lack of Changing Places toilets in their hometown of Sheffield, equally challenging. They attended a party, hosted by a local charitable organisation, along with some other friends with varying disabilities. The lack of a Changing Places toilet meant that one of their group could only stay for just over an hour.
Ella has Spina Bifida and uses a wheelchair full-time, she said: “I can self-catheterise, so I was able to stay a bit longer at the party, but for many the lack of suitable toilet facilities made it really difficult to be there. Sadly this is the norm when we go out. We have to work around what’s available, always having to plan ahead and make adaptions to our bodies and lives, when it should be businesses and venues that make reasonable adjustments to the environment to ensure we are included. We have money to spend, so it makes business sense to accommodate us!”
Claire Haymes, Changing Places coordinator at Closomat, said: “There are still so many pubs, clubs and restaurants in the UK that are unaware they are discriminating against disabled people and their families, by not providing suitable toilet facilities. We will keep sharing the stories and voices of our customers to raise awareness of the need for Changing Places, until they are everywhere!”
You can read about how theatre-lover, Kerrie, regularly risks her health to watch the shows she loves 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.