New Forest District Council opens two Changing Places toilets!

Erica and Hadley give the facilities in New Milton town centre a double thumbs up!
Bath Road, Lymington (By the sea water swimming baths).
Inside Bath Road Changing Places. This is going to change the lives of so many visitors to the town, both local and tourists.

To celebrate Changing Places Awareness day I can share these amazing photos with you! Here are two brand new Changing Places (to be registered shortly) that have been installed by New Forest District Council. One in New Milton town centre (the green interior) the other in Bath Road, Lymington (blue interior). These facilities are life changing for so many local people as well as the thousands of tourists that we get here in the New Forest area every year. To say we are excited about them is an understatement!

We would like to say a huge, huge thank you to the facilities team, councillors and everyone else who has been involved in both of these projects. From the very first time I spoke to the council about the need for these vital hoist assisted toilets, they understood it and wanted to make sure they were doing the best they could for the local community. They responded in the best possible way, by planning and installing facilities as soon as possible!

We can’t wait to spend the summer holidays in our local seaside towns now, knowing that we are catered for 🙂 #changingplaces #hadleysheroes #CPAD

NEW facilities with hoists and benches in Southampton!

There has been lots of good news lately in our camp, and I’m so sorry I’ve not been very good at updating the site to let you all know.

Over the past few months a few new facilities have opened near us and we’ve had the opportunity to try some of them out.

Southampton General Hospital has recently installed a brand new Changing Places toilet, equipped with ceiling tracking hoist, showers x 2 and possibly the most comfortable height adjustable Changing bench we’ve ever used. ***TOP TIP***. You need a code to access the room (it’s not accessible by radar key) so make sure you ask for this at the front desk when you first walk through the main entrance, so you have it for whenever the need arises. The code changes each week I believe. The toilet is located next to the M&S cafe (opposite the older ladies toilets). It is titled ‘Assisted Adult Changing Room’ but does not have the recognisable Changing Places logo. I’m not sure if this just hasn’t been added yet or they don’t intend to use it. Hopefully it will be added to the door shortly and other signage will also be added around the hospital to ensure more people are able to find and use this essential facility. Big thumbs up from us and Hadley!

Southampton Football Club (St Mary’s Stadium), we are exceptionally pleased to say, now has a Changing Places toilet! Hadley has been lucky enough to go to a few games now this season thanks to this wonderful facility. As a huge Southampton fan you can imagine his joy!  **TOP TIP** the facility is located in the corporate area of the Itchen Stand so please do bear this in mind when purchasing tickets. Whilst you can access the facility from anywhere in the ground, you will have to be escorted and so it is advisable to make the club aware of your attendance in advance where possible. The stewards are hugely helpful and we are so happy to report that the facility has been getting a lot of use and has been very well received.  

IKEA Southampton – There is now a Space to Change toilet with height adjustable bench and ceiling hoist (a smaller version of a Changing Places fitted to an existing accessible toilet) at Ikea in Southampton – a welcome addition for so many families, including my own. We have not had a chance to visit the store yet to try it out, but will report further when we have done so. Watch this space! I believe it is in the restaurant area. If anyone manages to visit and try it for themselves before me, please feel free to share on my fb page!

More exciting news to follow shortly as we see two new facilities open near us in the New Forest area! Life is getting more accessible… we’ll keep plugging away to help ensure more facilities keep popping up in our area.

Sarah and Hadley

xx

 

Being accessible is easy if you try!

 

My son Hadley loves sport! He truly lives for it. He also has Cerebral Palsy and is a full time wheelchair user. He really enjoys watching games on tv, but there is nothing quite like a live sporting event is there? To see the players you idolise in the flesh and being part of the electric atmosphere that comes with that. But sadly, most sports venues and stadiums are not equipped with suitable toilets for Hadley, or thousands of other disabled sport fans who need a changing bench and hoist to access the loo. As such, he rarely gets to experience such excitement. We are very unlikely to take him somewhere without these facilities, as it would mean he would have to suffer the indignity of lying on toilet floors to have his continence needs met – not to mention be dangerously lifted to the floor from his wheelchair.

Naturally then, when we heard that Twickenham Stadium had hired Mobiloo – the mobile Changing Places – we jumped at the chance to take him to watch his favourite rugby team, Harlequins, take on Gloucester recently.

To say he enjoyed it is an understatement! Twickers is unique. It’s the home of rugby and Hadley loved having such a great day out with his dad, cheering on the team and learning the Quins’ songs – yelling at the top of his voice every time they scored a try! And his team won (just), which clearly he was super-happy about. But he was equally excited that there was a toilet he could use at the stadium. (That statement breaks my heart a little. The fact it’s so unusual, he is excited that he doesn’t have to lie on toilet a floor!). He was so excited in fact, that he video-called me to show me the Mobiloo. I was asking him loads of questions, like ‘what was the score?’ and ‘have you had a nice time?’ You know, the usual questions you ask when your child is out without you.

But he replied: “Mum, Mum, no, look at the loo! I’m calling to show you the toilet. What do you think? It’s good isn’t it? It’s got a changing bed and hoist and a really cool lift and it’s really warm!”

He then got his dad (my husband) to pan around to show me, whilst he was lying comfortably on the changing bench singing ‘Come on you ‘Quins!’.

It was a really special moment for him. I could tell how much it meant to him that this loo was there. Bless him, he even thought it was arranged by one of the Harlequins’ players. He said: “The people at Twickenham are really nice. They got this special loo so that I didn’t have to lie on the floor. I bet it was the players who got it. I bet it was Marland Yarde. (His favourite Harlequins player).”

I didn’t correct him. I didn’t see the harm in him thinking one of his idols organised for him to be included. It made him so happy.

Without this special loo, as he calls it, he wouldn’t have been able to use the toilet at all whilst he was at Twickenham, a basic human right that so many of us take for granted. Or he would have had to endure lying on a toilet floor to be cleaned up and changed. The floor of a sports stadium is not the kind of place you would want to lay anybody, let alone a disabled child. The truth is, without the Mobiloo, we wouldn’t have taken him at all.

It’s not just Hadley who needs these pieces of equipment in an accessible toilet. There are sports fans all over the country who can’t go to stadiums because they lack these vital facilities.

So thank you Twickenham. Thank you so much for picking up the phone and hiring Mobiloo. Thank you for showing Hadley that he matters (now) and is as important as the next person. It really does make the world of difference. Hiring this service is not expensive and it’s not difficult. It’s just a loo. But to the people who need them, it’s the difference between being able to watch live sport or being confined to only watching sport at home. It’s a brilliant thing that you’re doing.

The Mobiloo mobile Changing Places toilet is situated outside the North stand at Twickenham for every game, including England’s upcoming home matches in the Six Nations Championship. It is available before, during and after the games to anyone who requires the accessible facility. It is staffed full-time, so that extra assistance can be provided to anyone who needs it.

I hope other stadium venues take note. It’s always preferable to have a full Changing Places facility in a venue, but where it’s not possible or not built yet, a mobile one is a brilliant solution that puts smiles on so many faces! What could be more rewarding than that?

If a farm can do it, you can do it too!

So many people ask me how we achieved a Changing Places (accessible toilet with room tracking hoist and adult sized changing bench) on a farm. It was really quite simple. And a lot of fun! So I thought I would share our story with you. This was the first Changing Places that we achieved as part of our campaign, so it will always be very special to us.

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How it came about…

I approached Bryan and Dawn, the owners of Longdown Activity Farm, near Ashurst in the New Forest, with my idea to fundraise for a Changing Places toilet for their visitors, as my little boy, Hadley, requires the use of adult changing facilities when using the toilet. Hadley has Cerebral Palsy and is a full time wheelchair user. His disability also means he is incontinent and without a changing bench and hoist in an accessible toilet, he is forced to lie on the toilet floor to be changed and be dangerously lifted in and out of his wheelchair. The farm is very dear to me. I have been visiting since I was a child and my children now both love it there too. Bryan and Dawn were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea and were already looking at how they could finance a facility as a result of the local press coverage they had seen and heard regarding my campaign. Between us we came up with fundraising ideas and a timescale, as well as a budget for the project and worked out where the best place would be to locate the facility.

Fundraising:

64488_806383082804629_8756828857389274231_nIMG_0773We created and held a Dung Heap Challenge – sounds a pongy as it was – where teams of local families and friends, shovelled manure during their Christmas holidays to raise money for the loo. We got our local pub involved and Hadley’s school PTA as well as some other friends and local businesses and it was a blast! It raised thousands of pounds towards the facility as well as lots of awareness of our campaign –  the local press covered the event on a few occasions.  We also held a quiz night, thanks to our local pub, The Saxon Inn in Calmore, and a car boot sale to help boost the funds. We collated money both in cash and via a justgiving crowdfunding page. We also approached a local charity for a grant towards the cost of the facility, which they kindly granted. As a community, we raised approximately half of the funds required to pay for the facility, with Longdown Activity Farm covering the rest.

Building the facility. 

12791107_10154098479671454_6466342654080530140_nWe approached local businesses for help which proved very worthwhile. Storage Onsite Solutions based in Marchwood, very kindly provided us with a shipping container free of charge, that we then set about converting into a toilet as there was not a suitable building on site at the farm that we could use. Using a container makes a lot of sense in this sort of environment and reduces the build time significantly as well as cost. Crown Paint kindly provided the paint for both the exterior and the interior of the container. 12799289_10154120885766454_8381666689166444731_nWe were also very fortunate that my father in law is a builder and so he was able to undertake much of the physical conversion and building work that was required. The rest of us in the family were set tasks too, like painting and buying materials! Other local businesses also helped with either free labour or reduced costs as the word spread about what we were doing. People really wanted to help!

Deciding what equipment to include:

The farm chose a company who could provide all of the equipment we needed as well as install it – Clos-o-mat/Total Hygiene. With their help, we were able to combine the best equipment for the space with the most cost-effective option. The facility includes a ceiling mounted, room tracking hoist, a mobile, height adjustable adult-sized changing trolley, toilet with room either side for carers and a height adjustable sink.  It was a really simple process and they worked with the other contractors to make sure that installation and build went smoothly. This was very important as the farm was open during the build and so the process could not be too disruptive for both animals and visitors alike.

How long did it take?

_MG_0264The whole project, from fundraising to opening day, took just under four months – which is pretty impressive even if we do say so ourselves!  We invited media and guests to come along to the opening of the facility and lots of people attended. It has been met with such an incredible response.

Since opening the facility in March 2016, the farm has seen a dramatic increase in customers with additional needs- in fact the numbers have doubled!  In addition, regular visitors who need these facilities are able to stay longer than they could before the facility was available. And with the purple pound being worth an estimated £212bn*, that’s good news for business as well as the customers.

Bryan Pass, owner of the farm said:”Without a doubt I can honestly say that we have doubled our visitors with additional needs. But even if only one person used the facility each day, it was well worth the investment. Judging by the smiles on so many of our visitors faces requiring the changing facilities, we really did make the right decision by installing them.”

 

14358765_10154661319296454_6683540205661974745_nThe Changing Places is currently nominated for an award at the ‘Loo of the Year Awards’ – and quite rightly so. It’s made a huge impact on our lives, providing us with somewhere to enjoy as a family, without having to worry about the danger and indignity of lifting Hadley onto a floor to manage his continence needs. Hadley cannot stop grinning when he visits the farm. He feels safe and equal, he can have fun, he doesn’t have to worry, and we can stay all day! There are hundreds of other families that are benefiting too, not just us. Here’s just some of the things they have said…

14958320_10209645888836373_1166855924_n“On a practical level it means we can spend all day at the farm, this week that meant we could enjoy the Halloween activities as well as the normal stuff. But it probably means more to me emotionally. It is an indication of wanting to understand the challenges our families face and for a small business that is super impressive. It means that my family’s custom is as valuable as any other family. It takes away some of that extra level of thought and planning (and therefore exhaustion and frustration) that is involved in taking a child like Sam out for the day.” Jenny Bee

You can see a little video review of the facility by Jenny and Sam, by clicking here.

“I work at a special needs primary school and we have visited Longdown for several years now, 10+, on our residential trip away with our year 6 students. We love Longdown and every year they are always so very welcoming to all of our students. We are a generic school, so our pupils are all unique and many we have taken require a decent and appropriate changing facility. This year it made all the difference for our wheelchair users. Clean, cleverly designed and accessible for all, couldn’t ask for much more. It was also helpful and more dignified for our older physically able students, who require a bit more space when being changed for behavioural reasons also.

“Longdown’s improved, simple but so very effective facilities meant our young people had all their simple requests met in a lovely clean and comfortable space. They also got to have a bit of a stretch and position change which is so important and must’ve felt great for them. Thank you Longdown.” Lucy Bishop   
“We have a nine year old who is disabled and this new facility is wonderful. I know we can have a full day at Longdown and not need to worry about finding somewhere to change Charlie. It is amazing. I wish more had them and they become compulsory for new buildings that are open to the public.” Helen Wilson

14971260_1294121700651869_515211453_n“We use the Changing Places facility at Longdown and it’s brilliant, made such a difference. Prior to it being there, we could only visit the farm on a warm sunny day so I could lay my son down on a blanket in the picnic area to change him. Now I can go all year round!”

Emma Fryer

*DWP – households with a disabled person have a combined income of £212 billion after housing costs.
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The curse of the missing loo

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I’m scared of lots of things. I’m a naturally fearful person. I admit I do sometimes wrap my kids in cotton wool and I am overprotective. If I had seen some of those clowns in our village, I think that might have been the death of me. I’m petrified of flying and terrified of heights and very scared of the world that I’m bringing my kids up in. But one of the things I never even considered I would be scared of is toilets! I mean, nobody likes a dirty public loo, but it’s not exactly scary (unless you are using it alone at night, then I would think it would be pretty normal to be a bit worried). But that’s not why I’m so fearful of them.

I’m scared of toilets, mainly because the majority of them represent huge risk and danger for my little boy. He has Cerebral Palsy that affects his entire body. He is a full time wheelchair user and his disability means he is not always able to control his bowel or bladder and so he wears nappies. This means he needs an adult-sized changing bench as well as a hoist to access the toilet. Something that you will rarely find in a disabled loo.

This fear of loos is not just something that plagues my mind, it is based on the very real and harsh consequences that we have to live with every single day. If there is not a changing bench and a hoist in the toilet that we are using, then the only option is to dangerously lift my son from his wheelchair, lay him down on the floor to change him/remove his nappy, lift him onto the toilet and try to hold him steady (he cannot sit unaided), lift him back off the loo to the floor to redress him, then lift him back to his wheelchair. It is bloody hard!

I’m so frightened of dropping him. I’m so scared he will catch something dreadful from the floor. I clean everything I can with disinfectant before and after we use the floor, but you can never be sure. Can you imagine putting somebody that you love through this? It’s hugely uncomfortable and undignified for him and sometimes painful, because there is rarely enough room to do this so knocks and bumps regularly happen on the way up and down for both of us!

IMG_1719What’s even more upsetting is that my son is now scared of toilets too because of this. He is six years old and he understands everything that he has to go through. He understands that it’s not fair and he understands that those of us who do not have a disability do not have to go through this just to have a wee. He is sometimes too scared to go out if he knows there won’t be a suitable toilet for him to use where we’re going. I hate that he has to feel like this. He is a beautiful little boy whose only worry should be about what he’s going to ask Santa for for Christmas!

So this is why I campaign for Changing Places toilets (larger disabled toilets with benches and hoists as standard). Because nobody should have to be scared of going to the loo. Not in 2016. There are millions of people with disabilities who have to live with this. Not just my little boy.

We need more of these facilities. Desperately. Because the world is scary enough for those with disabilities, without them having to worry about basic necessities that the rest of us take for granted.

#phantomloos #changingplaces #spacetochange

You can read more about this on the rest of this website or visit mychangingplace.co.uk

New Forest District Council becomes one of Hadley’s Heroes

I’m so proud of my local council. A member of staff heard my first interview on BBC Radio Solent, talking about the need for benches and hoists in disabled toilets, and they straight away contacted me to find out more. Since then they have been brilliant, liaising with us to discuss layouts and equipment and working really hard to find a way to include these vital facilities in their toilet refurbishment plans. I’m very pleased to say that there will be two changing facilities opening soon in our local area, details of which have been released today. We are very grateful to them for their empathy and compassion and for committing to these facilities so quickly. We really hope other authorities take their lead.

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This is what the Council has released today.

Council is Hadley’s Hero for new accessible public toilets plan

New Forest District Council has been named one of Hadley’s Heroes thanks to plans to replace public toilets in Old Milton Road, New Milton and Bath Road, Lymington with more accessible facilities. Work has already started in New Milton and both will be completed by April.

When Sarah Brisdion’s six year old son Hadley, who has Cerebral Palsy, is out and about with his family, he often faces the undignified and unsanitary prospect of being changed on the toilet floor, because standard disabled toilets do not meet his needs.  Hadley’s condition means he uses a wheelchair, is unable to stand and wears nappies because he is not always able to control his bowel and bladder movements.  When New Forest District Council’s senior streetscene supervisor, Stewart Phillips, heard about this heart breaking situation, he got in touch to see what the family’s local council could do to help.

Sarah, who now campaigns for more accessible public facilities through her online community group, Hadley’s Heroes, said: “Changing somebody you love on a toilet floor is soul-destroying and it can be very dangerous too, lifting somebody from mobility equipment and laying them amongst the thousands of germs present on a toilet floor. But without changing benches or hoists in accessible toilets, this is exactly what families like mine face every day, or we have to choose to not go out at all. Sadly there is very little public awareness of these issues and so most accessible toilets do not include these vital pieces of equipment. That’s something I’m working very hard to change.”

Thanks to conversations with Sarah, new public toilets at New Milton recreation ground and Bath Road in Lymington will have a dedicated changing facility with ceiling hoist and a height adjustable changing bed. Hadley’s Heroes has now named NFDC as one of their ‘heroes’ for its response to her campaign.

Cllr Sophie Beeton, New Forest District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said; “We are very pleased to be able to support the needs of our residents and provide facilities that cater for every member of our community. These new toilets are a great example of how, by listening to and working with local people, we can make a big difference to people’s lives.

“We’re very proud to be named one of Hadley’s Heroes and grateful to Sarah for bringing this important issue to our attention.”

During the build the nearest alternative public toilets in New Milton will be in Spencer Road and in Lymington will be on the quay.

Arsenal FC made my little Southampton fan’s dreams come true.

Hadley is obsessed with football and loves watching his team – Southampton Football Club. The Saints. He watches them regularly on tv, shouts and screams at the telly as much as the rest of us, has a brilliant day when they win and not so much when they don’t.

14232968_10154642693361454_7841201075657133744_nBut the thing that he wants to do the most is watch Saints in person at St Mary’s stadium, with his friends and family. But currently, the stadium doesn’t have a toilet he can use. You see, Hadley is disabled (he has Cerebral Palsy) and requires a special kind of toilet called a Changing Places (with an adult-sized changing bench and hoist) to answer a call of nature. He is not unique in this requirement. Hundreds of thousands of other children and adults also need these facilities.

Hadley has been begging me (his mum) to let him go to St Mary’s, but I can’t let him, as I’m not happy about him lying on a toilet floor to have his nappy changed. Not at a football stadium. You can only imagine what he might pick up and I’m too scared that he will be injured being lifted to and from his wheelchair to the floor. I also don’t believe he should have to endure that. I think he and thousands of other people deserve more.

But when he asked specifically if he could have a ticket for his sixth birthday, it really upset me. Because I knew that a facility would not be in place before his birthday. I knew I was not going to be able to let him go and that this would break his heart (and mine!).

I’ve been publicly campaigning for a Changing Places at St Mary’s stadium. Challenging a multi-million pound Premier League club is tiring and emotionally draining. But it has been necessary in order to ensure Hadley and others are not excluded from supporting their team and so that visiting supporters with these needs can come to our ground.

The support and encouragement we have received from other football fans has been overwhelming and has kept me going.

After being ‘touched’ by our campaign, one particular lady contacted Arsenal Football Club to see if they could make it possible for Hadley to see his beloved Saints for his birthday. ‘Arsenal?’ I hear you ask. ‘I thought you said Southampton?’ I know, stick with me.

You see Saints were playing Arsenal this weekend just gone, at The Emirates stadium. They have a Changing Places for their supporters and visiting fans already.

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The wonderful people at Arsenal responded immediately and invited Hadley, myself, my hubby and Hadley’s twin sister Erica, to watch Southampton at The Emirates – as their guests! You can imagine the excitement!

Sadly, Southampton lost the game, 2-1, but everything else about the day was brilliant!

What a heart-warming gesture by Arsenal. Not only were we given tickets to watch the match on Club level with the extra facilities and comfort that comes with it, but we were also invited to the restricted area before the match to see the players arrive, something that we would not have been able to do as your average visiting fan.

The kind Arsenal staff even made a point of letting the Southampton staff and players know that Hadley was there, so that they could come and say hi to him and he could get some photos with them! He was beaming!14238310_10154640968356454_5568206332194377245_n

We also bumped into Bob Wilson who came straight over to us and had a chat with the kids about the Arsenal time capsule they were looking at. (What a lovely lovely man).

Every member of staff that we encountered at Arsenal was a gem, from security who checked over our car on the way in, to the stewards and catering staff and the generous events team who invited us. We were made to feel so welcome.

At no point did we feel like we were a problem or an inconvenience, just because we had some additional needs. The day was just about having fun and enjoying the game. Just as it should be. It was an amazing feeling not to have to worry about how and where we could change Hadley safely. And the Changing Places was brilliant. Clean, tidy and most importantly available whenever we needed it!

We felt like royalty. All of our other needs were considered too, from accessible undercover parking on site at the stadium to the location of the tickets close to the Changing Places facility. Even down to ensuring that the club mascot was kept a safe distance from Hadley so as not to upset him and ruin his day (he is absolutely petrified of adults in fancy dress, and so as cuddly as Gunner was, he was not Hadley’s cup of tea!).

But of course we are not royalty. It’s just when you are not used to being able to visit a venue like this or witnessing staff who understand your needs and cater for them, it kind of feels like you are.

The stadium is world-class. And as the first ever Premier League game Hadley has attended live, it is going to leave a lasting impression. It has set the bar high for the future matches he attends.

14316978_10154640885541454_6454981594977739450_nThe view from the Club level wheelchair platform in the corner of the stadium was really good. Close enough to see everything, but high enough to get a great perspective. Also it was well undercover, so no getting wet in the front row – one of the many gripes I know lots of supporters have with the location of wheelchair spaces at sporting venues, particularly football grounds.

Even Hadley’s sensory needs were considered, with no supporters directly behind us, keeping noise levels more controlled. This was really great for us, as Hadley’s condition means he is very easily startled by loud noise.

To say that Hadley enjoyed himself does not do this day justice. He was a little apprehensive during the build up, as he was unsure of what to expect, but his face literally lit up when he saw the players on the pitch and he did not take his eyes off the ball for the entire 90 something minutes.

I was so proud of him and so happy for him. He was in his element and enjoyed the electric atmosphere that comes with this level of footie as well as all the goals – even if they weren’t all for his side!14225476_10154640163961454_7924225788479178603_n

He even played it cool when Saints went one-nil up in the first half and did a silent air punch with his fist so as not to upset the Arsenal fans we were sat with. Because he knew if it wasn’t for Arsenal, he wouldn’t have been there to see it!

What wonderful memories for this little football fan to cherish – even if Arsenal did go on to win the match! It’s such a shame that his own club (Southampton) couldn’t have made those memories for him.

We would like to say a huge thank you to Arsenal FC. We will be forever grateful for your generosity and compassion. Even my husband (who is a Spurs fan!) was so impressed. And that surely says it all!

We really hope other clubs take your considerate attitude towards those supporters who need a little extra help in order to enjoy a match day. It makes the world of difference and you should be so proud of having a Changing Places and making Hadley’s dream a reality.

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Why my five year old understands what inequality is

Why my five year old understands what inequality is

The butterflies in the stomach, looking desperately forward to seeing your footie mates, the excitement for a fresh new season, catching a close up glimpse of your heroes, plenty of goals and if you’re lucky, 3 points to kick off the new season. I remember how it felt when I was a kid. How I lived and breathed football. I spent the entire school holidays depressed, looking in the sports pages of the newspapers and following all the signing news, just gagging for the middle of August to hurry up.

This is what hundreds of thousands of football fans will be feeling tomorrow morning. Waking up ecstatic that it’s match day and the start of the Premier League season. But not my little footie-mad boy. Because he is currently denied the joy of this experience, just because his beloved football club doesn’t have a toilet that he can use yet. This week he has been noticeably emotional and to say that I feel horrendous that he feels so left out and so different is the biggest understatement in the world. He is just five years old. He also happens to have a disability that means he is incontinent and cannot walk.

It’s not like we’ve not been asking. For the past year we’ve been shouting from the rooftops the desperate need for a Changing Places (a special toilet with an adult sized changing bench and hoist) at Southampton FC’s St Mary’s Stadium, along with many other fans, some of whom have been asking the club to install one for over 3 and a half years! I know, that’s right. That’s a long time to wait for a wee isn’t it.

Without the Changing Places, Hadley would have to lie on the toilet floor to have his toileting needs met. And that’s something that I just cannot bear to put him through. Have you seen the floor of a toilet in a football stadium?!

But he doesn’t care. He’s really cross with me. Because he wants to go. He wants to see his heroes and he would put up with that hideous situation, in fact he would barely bat an eyelid at it, because he is so used to having to go through it. He’s never known much else in his little life. And that breaks my heart into pieces. But what’s more, is what I can’t tell him. I can’t tell him that I can’t lift him on and off of the toilet floor and in and out of his wheelchair because my back hurts too much and I’m too scared I will drop him. I’m petrified I will hurt my back even more and not be able to care for him properly. I can’t tell him that because he will feel guilty. I can’t bear for him to feel guilty. It’s not his fault that he has a disability.

So I can’t let him go. It’s just not possible. I have to be ‘bad’ Mummy. I have to say no. When all I want to do is say screw it, I can’t let you miss out any more!!!

Perhaps I’m being unrealistic. Southampton FC seem to think so. Perhaps the football club called all the mobile toilet facilities last year and asked to hire one this season and there were none available. But if that’s the case, then why won’t they tell us that? Why are they just ignoring our cries for help? I’m pretty sure it’s because they didn’t. Because they didn’t think to make provisions for the start of the season. Because they think it’s ok for us to wait a bit longer. (Hey we’ve waited this long, what’s another few months?!).  But have you ever tried telling a five year old child to wait?? To wait for something they’ve dreamed of. And that all of their friends and family members don’t have to wait for? And really, when it comes to the safety and dignity of our children should they have to? Should that not be a given? In 2016. At the home of a multi-million pound Premier League football club? When a bit of cash and a phone call is probably all it would have taken to secure one. There were plenty of them at Glastonbury this summer, so I know they exist!

It’s not that I’m not over the moon that the club has finally said it will install a Changing Places facility after brushing it under the carpet for years. I am thrilled to have won that particular part of the battle. (Although they have still not said this publicly so I’m a little worried, not least because they continue to lie and say that I’m the only person to have ever asked for this facility!) But that doesn’t help me tomorrow at 3 o’clock when faced with the tears of my baby boy. The little boy who has more strength and determination and stamina already than I’ve ever had. He surely deserves more.

We have promised the kids a trip to the beach in the morning to try to take Hads mind off of football (and mine). A beach where there is a Changing Places, ice cream and hopefully sunshine and laughter. But we will all secretly be thinking about the score. Because despite everything. We want our team to win. We are red and white through and through. We are Southampton. And we’ll still celebrate a win like every other supporter and brush off anything else (cause hey, it’s a long season right, the first game means nothing!!)

I’ve been overwhelmed by public support for us in our plight to get Changing Places everywhere, but none more so than this particular campaign. Even Hadley’s five year old friends have joined him hand in hand to show solidarity for their school pal, whom they’d already do anything for. But five year olds have more empathy than grown ups. I’m learning that fast.

I feel so sad tonight. I had to write this down to get it out of my system. I’m asking myself a lot of searching questions. Perhaps I put too much importance on this? I know that it feels worse to us, because we are living it, than it would to any business. I know I didn’t understand that people had to go through this until I went through it myself. And when I look at what is going on I almost feel like giving up. Because Hadley has worked so hard to over come his insecurities and anxieties and this may well have pushed him backwards. Because he is a clever, intelligent little man who understands all of what is going on. Even when we try to hide our upset and anger. And I feel hugely responsible for that. I didn’t go into this thinking it would take forever. I thought once people knew that disabled children and adults had to lie on toilet floors they would make changes immediately. But now we are knee deep in this battle, it’s almost impossible for him to not understand what inequality is. For him to not feel like he’s worth less than other people because he is incontinent and comes with a few extra needs and wheels. That’s a huge deal. And I’m struggling with that.

But who’s fault is that?

If I didn’t try to change the world and just let him continue to lie on the floor he would never know any different. But it’s catch 22. What would you do? Nothing and let your child lie in urine and learn in the long run that it’s degrading or fight and try to manage their emotions as they understand more immediately that much of the world still treats disabled people like second class citizens?

Emotional times.  #coyr #saintsfc #changingplaces #wefighton2

 

Portsmouth International Port becomes the first sea port in the world to become truly accessible.

We had the privilege of opening a wonderful new Space to Change facility this week at Portsmouth International Port.  The facility has a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench and room-tracking ceiling hoist, as well as peninsular toilet and extra space for mobility equipment and carers. We believe that Portsmouth is the first sea port in the world to offer these vital facilities for customers with additional needs. To say we are proud and happy about this is an understatement!

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“Space to Change enables safe and dignified lifting, changing and toileting for those with complex needs.”

I recently brought it to the attention of the Port management that standard accessible toilets do not meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people with severe disabilities or more complex needs. They were so shocked to hear this and even more so that people like my son, Hadley, (who has Cerebral Palsy and is a full-time wheelchair user), are faced with lying on dirty toilet floors to have pads or nappies changed. They were incredibly supportive and understood how undignified, dangerous and heartbreaking it is for so many people and wanted to change that as soon as possible.

Kalvin Baugh, Ferry Port Manager, said: “We felt very strongly that nobody should have to endure this and so worked closely with Sarah to find a solution to ensure our terminal is accessible to everyone.”

Not only is Portsmouth Port leading the way in accessibility for cruise and ferry customers, but they have also proven just how simple it is to make a huge difference. By joining an existing standard accessible toilet with a first aid room situated next door, the port has created the Space to Change with minimal amounts of building work and disruption. (The first aid room was able to be moved to another location).

loo3Something as simple as some extra space, a bench and a hoist, is nothing short of life-changing for families like mine. It enables us to use the toilet when out in public – something that most of us understandably take for granted. We now have even more reason to choose travelling by ferry from Portsmouth, over any other port or airport. I cannot thank the Port management enough for understanding and helping to make such an important difference to the lives of so many people.

Kalvin Baugh added: “We pride ourselves on providing the very best for all of our customers. This is a wonderful facility, not only for those travelling to and from Portsmouth, but for the local community too.”

The facility is located on the ground floor of the terminal next to the ladies and gents toilets. It is accessible via Radar Key and is open from 6am to midnight, every day.

Changing Places on the beach is a revelation!

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It’s so nice to be able to report good news. And this is just a real quickie as it’s the school holidays tomorrow and I have to get so much done today without the kids at home. But I just wanted to give a big shout out and thank you to Bournemouth Borough Council – specifically to the facilities at Boscombe Beach! Thank you for providing us with the best beach day ever this weekend!

Boscombe1A Changing Places on the beach, accessible beach huts and beach wheelchairs! What a revelation! Having the toilet with hoist and change bed (and shower) meant we could spend an entire day at the beach on Sunday with our friends. No more laying in the back of the car or on the toilet floor (gross – imagine laying on the floor of a beach public loo??). The smile on the kids’s faces absolutely said it all!

To find out more about Boscombe Beach and the facilities they offer for disabled visitors, click here.