Put yourself in this scene…

You and your family are enjoying a Saturday out together.


 It’s nothing out of the ordinary but it’s nice, a lazy afternoon browsing some of your favourite stores and enjoying being off school, off work and being together. The streets are alive with shoppers and day-trippers and families but it’s not so crowded that it’s uncomfortable. You can still stroll side-by-side, under a flawless blue sky and a sun that floods everything with light and a warm glow.

You take a seat outside a café opposite a play park.
The little ones enjoy making a mess eating ice cream and watching the other kids chasing and laughing in the park, while mum and dad sit beside them sipping fancy-looking coffees.

The littlest kid chatters about the toy store and the pet store you just visited before talk turns to the play park, the next stop on today’s adventure.

But before you can do that, you need to make sure both kids have visited the bathroom. Not a problem for the youngest guy, he’s just learned to pee all by himself and as long as dad is by the door to reassure him and make sure he washes his hands he will be fine.

But it’s not as easy for your older son.
He’s in a wheelchair and can never go to the bathroom himself. He doesn’t have great muscle control or strength in his limbs which means he means he needs help with most daily functions. In fact, he doesn’t need to go to the toilet as such, he needs to be changed. He’s starting to become very aware of this now and maybe even a little self-conscious, nobody else his age is still being changed by a parent, he’s already 6 and a half. It’s not easy for mum or dad either, the one who needs to lift and coordinate a growing young man to change him. But you persevere anyway because that’s what you do.

So you ask where the disabled bathroom is, expecting to be told there isn’t one as is normally the case, but one of the waiters directs you to the disabled bathroom. Seems promising. Until you see it.

The ‘disabled toilet’ is little more than a cubicle with a hand rail.
And it seems nobody else is treating it as an important space either: it has been left dirty, it smells and stale urine stains the floor. Your heart sinks because you know how this is going to go.

When your son was younger you got round this type of situation by using baby-changing facilities or laying him across your knee and changing him like you would with any other baby. But he’s not a baby anymore, he’s heavy and that won’t work. Your only option now is to lay him on the floor, that urine-stained, disgusting floor where no other parent would ever consider changing their child. But your child has a disability and you have very little choice.

He has to go on the floor.
The disgusting floor stained with the urine of strangers. Your beautiful child reduced to this.

You shouldn’t have to do that. No parent should and no other parent would accept it, but it’s the norm if your child has a disability.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We can change it. If we highlight the issue, let people know this isn’t acceptable and ask for change.

Change could mean spacious, fully-equipped changing facilities – that would be the dream. But we know that’s not possible for every business or venue. It would be unreasonable to expect that of everyone. But what is possible for most places is to say to the parent: “We will find you somewhere clean and private to change your child.” Even if it’s just an office or a private room. The change we need to see is the emergence of more disabled-friendly, accommodating attitudes.

This is simpler and easier to achieve than renovating a building.

You just need to be helpful. We are not asking for ourselves, we are asking for the sake of our child’s dignity.

So if you think this should change, please support Space to Change.  

It's a very important campaign managed by our friends over at the Firefly Garden

The results will help shape the next steps in our campaign and hopefully spark changes that mean the world to parents and children whom deserve better treatment.

I want to help


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