This is a guest article from Laura Moore. If you would like to write a guest post for our blog, please get in touch with Charlotte Jones, our Research Associate.
Picture this, you’re out with your beautiful kids enjoying your weekend, maybe visiting a café or having lunch in a restaurant, watching a movie at the local Imax, maybe doing some shopping, you get the idea. You’re tired, they’re whining, and at some point during the day you and they are probably going to need to visit the toilet – we all need to pee! So you take your kids and pile into the nearest restroom. Next to you in the queue is another Mum, this Mum is also tired and fed up, she’s also had a hard day and next to her is her equally beautiful kid, but her kid is in a wheelchair. You feel a bit sorry for her and try not to make eye contact in case she tries to talk to you. You take your kids into the cubicle, help them use the toilet, pull their pants up, make them wash their hands and then you leave.
The other Mum is still there, she’s struggling, she’s heartbroken because her son, who is the same age as yours, can’t stand up, he can’t even sit up. She needs to help him go to the toilet so she pushes his bulky wheelchair into the tiny disabled toilet you just walked past.
She shuts the door behind her and squeezes in next to it. And then, as she does every time her son needs the toilet, she tries to wrack her brains for an ingenious way to make this easier but right here in this toilet, there isn’t one.
So she braces herself to have her heart broken just a little bit more. She takes a mat out of her bag and puts it on the floor before she struggles to lift her son from his wheelchair and lower him onto the mat.
The mat that is on the toilet floor.
The toilet floor that scientists say has 77,000 germs and viruses.
The toilet floor that she can see is dirty, has pee splashed on it as well as muddy footprints and some soggy toilet roll.
The toilet floor that she wouldn’t lie on and wishes more than anything that her son didn’t have to lie on either.
But she has no choice, her son can’t stand up, he can’t even sit up. He can only lie down. He’s 7, he doesn’t fit on a baby changing table – he’s too tall and too heavy.
So he has to lie on that toilet floor so she can remove his nappy and lift him onto the toilet. She has to kneel on that floor in her only comfy jeans, the ones she has to wash every time she takes her son out because the knees are covered in thousands of germs.
He has to lie on that floor with all those germs and viruses despite his low immune system, something that is part of his disability. The immune system the doctors are very careful with, and that has led to numerous chest infections and hospitalisations throughout his life already.
She finishes dressing him, lifts him back into his wheelchair. Her back is aching from lifting 3 ½ stone of dead weight but she’s used to it. She knows one day she won’t be able to lift him anymore and then he won’t have the luxury of being able to use a toilet, he will have no choice but to sit in his own mess the whole time they’re out.
Not like your kids who can use any public toilet they need.
She folds the mat and puts it back in her bag, along with numerous germs and viruses that are now going to come home with her.
You’ve probably forgotten about your visit to the toilets already, it’s an irrelevant part of your day. But for that other Mum it’s been the most stressful part of their outing so far, and one she knows she will have to repeat in a few hours unless she cuts their day short and goes home. Or decides to use the back of their van in the carpark instead, with the door open and her precious son in full view of everyone. It’s a traumatic part of every outing which is only going to get worse as her son gets older, bigger, and heavier.
That other Mum is me.
My son is William.
He is 7, he has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is one of the happiest and funniest boys you’ll ever meet.
He wishes he didn’t have to lie on that dirty mat on that dirty floor with soggy toilet paper at his eye level.
He’s my baby, my precious little boy who makes me smile every day and who right now I am hoping doesn’t get covered in sewage if, God forbid, the toilet started to over flow now that I’ve flushed it.
Before William was born it never occurred to me that this was an issue; that over ½ million people have this struggle every time they need the toilet. Why would it? It didn’t affect me, or anyone I loved.
Now it does.
Now I know the importance of Changing Places & Space to Change toilets and that’s why I want the law to change to provide them everywhere.
I want my son and thousands of other people to have the luxury of using a toilet wherever they are visiting, just like yours do, without having to lie on a toilet floor.
Imagine your son or daughter, they’re a teenager visiting the cinema or a pub with their friends, they need the toilet and have to lie on a toilet floor, in the clothes they picked out especially for their evening out – they’d be heartbroken and you would too.
Please sign the petition, share this information, tell people about our struggles and help us change this for all of us. We are all only one accident away from having to lie on a toilet floor ourselves.
Read and sign the petition here.
[This article was also published on the Selfish Mother site here]