'I don’t know if it was lack of sleep or that I’d not dried the floor enough or if I was just being clumsy that day, but it was enough to send me to my knees, taking my son with me.'
It struck a chord with us here at the Firefly Community as we continue to campaign for improved accessible toilet facilities with our own Space to Change campaign and to support the Changing Places campaign.
The mum in this real life experience shared her story anonymously but everyday we hear from parents of children with special needs about the difficulties they face toileting their children on days out.
Often the focus is on dignity and health from a hygiene perspective.
Photographs are shared of children being changed in cramped and dirty places including the floors of public toilets.
This mum's shared experience puts the spotlight on an often overlooked issue caused by poor accessible toilet provision - and that is the risk involved in lifting a disabled child or adult in unsuitable circumstances.
The risk to the person with the disability, the risk to the carer and the risk to any other family members who might be accompanying that day as in this situation a sibling.
It could be said that the family in this story got off lightly, a few bruises and an aching heart, made better with cuddles and biscuits.
However, the 'what ifs' will haunt every special needs parent who finds themselves in this situation.
What if the mum had caused herself a serious back injury leaving her unable to care for her child properly in the future?
What if the child has sustained a serious head injury in the fall?
What if his sister had been knocked to the floor during the incident?
There are a lot of 'What ifs' in this situation. A situation that many special needs families face on a daily basis.
The biggest and most important 'What if' should be 'What if this venue had provided a bench and hoist in it's accessible toilet?'
If that had been the case, then this mum would never have found herself in a situation of trying to lift her disabled child from a wheelchair to lie him on a toilet floor to change his incontinence pad.
Space to Change toilets allow adaptions to existing 7.5 sqm accessible toilets to include adult-sized changing benches and hoists to ensure the safe and dignified lifting, changing and toileting of children and adults with complex needs.
They are essential. However, they aren't widely available.
To sign a petition for a changing benches and hoists to be installed in all large public buildings and spaces - click here
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