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?