In recent weeks there has been quite some noise and ever increasing momentum on social media, through newspapers and on television about the campaign to raise awareness of Changing Places toilets and the lack of availability of them in major retail chains and on motorway services. Bloggers, motivated parents and more have taken on the challenge, with one inspirational mum taking a “toilet selfie” each day through advent to raise awareness.
For those who have not seen the campaign, to summarise, it focuses around the installation of adapted toilet facilities which incorporate an adult sized changing bed, a hoist and enough space in the room to accommodate both wheel chair and carers. Most existing toilet facilities are either unsafe for a child or adult, such as a baby change unit, too small like many disabled toilets or just plain dirty, as a result the only option is often to change on the floor which is not something that appeals to anyone.
The campaign (rather oddly) seems to have somewhat polarised opinion to date and in a little over a week of going live, the petition focusing on the major supermarkets installing a Changing Places toilet has garnered nearly 80,000 supporters. Each day it continues to gain support of celebrities and media outlets, however, the ones who count (the supermarkets) continue to ignore all the noise.
On the flip side of the momentum and positivity, there are those who simply do not get it and seem to have missed the point of the whole campaign.
Now I know that the comments section of the Daily Mail is hardly the finest example of tolerance and understanding but it is the first article I happened upon and here are a few examples of the “best” or most green arrowed comments on a recent article which focused on John Lewis / Waitrose. (The link to article is below.)
“Does this lady think that every retailer should have change facilities for disabled people? I’m sorry but where does this stop, it is impossible to cater for everyone’s needs. And to shame them on social media, it seems people are just out to cause trouble rather than politely contact the store in question to raise concerns.”
The campaign is not for every retailer to do so, it would be impractical for every high street store and village shop to offer one. It is about raising awareness and focuses on the ones who can afford it and have the space to accommodate it, the ones where as a shopper you could be spending a considerable amount of time (and money) and a toilet break could be necessary.
“Why single out John Lewis? I can’t think of one retailer which provides these kind of facilities. you can’t expect every retailer to provide toilet / changing facilities for people suffering from every single type of disability.”
Therein lies the problem, that this person cannot think of a single retailer that offers such facilities, so therefore by their logic they are not needed. I will name one for them though, IKEA, they committed to install in all stores without any sort of fight after they were contacted and asked if it would be possible.
Away from the negativity, there were examples of support for the campaign but they were generally given low ratings of approval through red arrows by readers, the lack of compassion was a little mind boggling. This is a campaign that focuses on improving the lives of disabled people and their families, yet some feel the need to belittle and criticise it.
While some of the other comments included in the section do offer balanced views, there are many which were quite simply vitriolic, full of spite and sadly appear to have been written through pure ignorance.
Personally, we are at the stage with Matthew now where the baby change unit creaks under his weight, the gap between the sink and wall grows ever smaller with each visit. Being something of a no germ freak who will do “the wet hand dash” and run to catch an open toilet door with my foot so I do not need to touch it, the idea of kneeling on a toilet floor makes me bilious and fearful.
So, if we were to visit one of the said disinterested department stores and Matthew decided to fill his nappy, with the abject lack of facilities what would they suggest we do?
Number 1? Leave him in it? I am sure they would love an interesting, full bodied, well defined and earthy addition to the balance of fragrances in the perfume department. Though joking aside, being left in your own mess, it’s not really funny is it!
Number 2? Maybe, we use our big changing mat from home and perform a change on one of their beautifully laid out bedspreads in the home department? Now, if he is on a Movicol day (parents who know, then you know) then phew, that is going to cause one hell of an offence and really upset some shoppers, I doubt Margaret or Keith on the customer service desk would like to dispose of the bag of joy either. We would rather maintain some modesty and decorum, so as much of a statement doing this would make, we will resist.
Number 3? Use their existing inadequate facilities and hope the baby change unit doesn’t break or kneel in wee, smack head against a urinal or other porcelain object. With my germ phobia, this is not really working either and neither do I want to walk around sporting l’eau de-piss and two wet knees.
Number 4? Take our custom elsewhere in shopping centres where facilities exist, or maybe, just maybe, the retail sector who claim to care so much actually listen to those who make their tills chime and take a little positive action over profit. Sounds like a winner to me!
If you would like to find out more about the changing places facilities or discover more about the campaign, please visit the website below.