The curse of the missing loo

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

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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.


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.