Yesterday marked Mum’s birthday (I’m far too chivalrous to reveal a lady’s age), and to celebrate it we went out for a meal. Yes, my main was fantastic, yes, the slice of chocolate fudge cake I had afterwards was very generous, and yes, I laughed a lot as well – but I’m going to cut to the chase here. The evening’s crowning glory lay not in the food, drink or company, but in the disabled toilet facilities, which stood head and shoulders above many others I’ve used recently. When the able-bodied amongst you are out and looking to spend a penny or more, you are probably able to take the environment in which you do so for granted and without a second thought. It is unlikely to prove impractical to you in any way, shape or form, and as such you can breeze in and out leaving only the commanding hum of the hand dryer – and no trail of devastation – behind you.
I and my fellow disabled loo patrons are not always so lucky. The history of the disabled toilet is littered with major blunders that make these cubicles, which can be designed with a foolish lack of foresight by people who will never have even the slightest reason to venture into them, completely inaccessible to people with handicaps of all shapes and sizes. Over the years I’ve visited disabled facilities so small that even the most compact wheelchair user could not close the door behind them, let alone have enough space to transfer safely between toilet and chair so they can do their business. Those who dare to provide rooms so inadequate are showing blatant ignorance towards the needs of the disabled, and their disrespect is therefore equally as clear and insulting. When I find myself with so little room to manoeuvre and do what is necessary, it becomes apparent that perhaps the only reason some business owners install disabled toilets at all is to tick a box and satisfy legislation. I can only assume that said people still have more reading to do on what equality means.
There are, of course, people who get everything right with regards to disabled provision. The toilet I used last night was clear evidence of this. You could definitely swing a cat or two in there, and upon entering my wheelchair was able to turn perfectly on the spot – or “on a sixpence”, as some like to say – without either end activating the hand dryer or scraping paint off the wall. I could park up and move between gel cushion and toilet seat with room to spare, and without having to worry about getting tangled up in the emergency cord and pulling it by accident. The whole process was a breeze, just as it should be, and this was thanks to a great deal of careful consideration from a proprietor who realised their duty to make every disabled customer’s experience a comfortable one. When it was suggested that I write a post about this, I was encouraged to name and shame those who show neglect and disregard for disabled comfort breaks. I cannot do this, as I fear it would be a hot-headed affair, but I can live in hope that they realise the error of their ways and do their bit to make our everyday lives that little bit simpler.