Petitions and publicity are raising awareness of the need for major improvements to accessible WCs, and not before time.
In recent months media outlets from the BBC to the Huffington Post have highlighted the plight of profoundly disabled people and their carers who face enormous challenges over such a basic need as going to the loo.
The BBC reported that a petition signed by more than 100,000 people calling for Changing Places WCs to be installed at motorway service stations in the UK had been delivered to the Houses of Parliament.
Reporter Natalie Pirks highlighted that standard disabled WCs do not meet the needs of the estimated 250,000 people who cannot get out of their wheelchair on their own. She also referred to people having to sit in their waste or lie on a germ-ridden floor as calls intensify for major organisations to improve their facilities.
The film showed a mum and her child on a Christmas shopping trip in Horsham where a council-run WC was not fit for the needs of 11-year-old Alfie. There was barely enough room for Alfie and his mum, so they got back in the car and drove to find somewhere else.
Another example focused on Julie Clough, a disabled adult who is supported by her mother and brother. Their campaign has led to every major UK airport having a changing places loo. Julie’s mum said the last straw came when one airport said they had to change in the room where the body bags were stored.
The Huffington Post featured the case of a couple from Sussex who shared a photograph of their daughter lying on the floor of an accessible WC cubicle at a John Lewis store. The parents were careful to avoid identifying the little girl, and they found support from others who criticised the retailer for spending £7 million on a high-profile Christmas TV advert whilst failing to improve facilities for disabled customers.
A key point about local authorities is that they have a Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) which states that they have to promote equality of opportunity. The film indicated that by not providing suitable facilities they are not fulfilling their duty.
Businesses are required to make “reasonable adjustment”. It is hard to see that John Lewis met this requirement, particularly as the BBC report highlighted IKEA as an example of good practice. Even Wetherspoons have installed Changing Places loos in a couple of their pubs.