I’m generally a really positive person. When you acquire a disability, it certainly helps to see life as a glass half full rather than half empty. When I became a wheelchair user, my life changed, it didn’t end.
Yet despite this, I do find that sometimes when I go off on a whimsical rant about something, it is a ‘negative’. Occasionally, like yesterday (5th July 2019-‘Tynwald Day‘) it is as much about off loading when one of life’s challenges get in the way and makes things more difficult than they need to be. A verbal blast on here or in a Facebook rant can be quite cathartic! Yesterdays grump is actually only half-way there, I’m going to have a pop at a coffee house’s crap attitude on another occasion!
In the mean time, I thought I need a subject to write about that is positive. I’ve intended to write about this for a while, so today I made a journey to town especially to take photographs of a toilet…
…like you do …especially if you want to be arrested…
Okay, so what are ‘Changing Places‘?
Well, as most people can imagine, a standard public toilet is a bit crap for most wheelchair users. We need more space in order to get the chair closer to the pot and probably need grab rails in order to support us as we transfer on & off the toilet. We therefore need a different type of toilet (one that frequently ends up becoming a storage cupboard, but that’s one for a different blog entry!). Without access to an appropriate toilet, many wheelchair users become socially isolated.
That’s pretty straight forward.
But what about people who have more complex needs? People who may need to be hoisted out of a wheelchair or need a changing table so that a carer or family member can help them with toileting? What do those people do? Well, simply, those people become even more isolated. They rarely, if ever, go to football, theatre, cinema, shops or museums… you know, stuff that other people do. Those things that make life interesting & fun. ‘Changing Places’ are accessible toilets on steroids. As well as even more space than a standard accessible toilet and the grab-rails that would ordinarily be used, they also have a hoist, changing table and other things that can make life easier for someone whose disability is a bit more complex, for example, it may have an automatic door too, things like that.
Did I mention going to the museum? Well, in the case of The Manx Museum, a lack of toilet facilities need no longer be a barrier, as the Isle of Man’s first ‘Changing Places’ toilet was recently opened. I put my head in a few months ago to have a nosey at it and was instantly impressed. It has been well thought out and even little touches, like the nice decorations. With this facility, it opens up opportunities for people who require more support than is normally available, to get out in to the community. The Manx Museum is, in itself an excellent facility, well worthy of a visit. Now it is accessible to a wider group of people who would otherwise possibly not want to risk it incase they need a toilet.
It is also available for people to use who are simply in Douglas, for example, going shopping.
Obviously, it can’t all be positive can it? The big restriction is that it is only open during museum opening hours (10am to 5pm). We all know that disabled people should be in bed by six-thirty and not want to go to the pub or cinema don’t we? A ‘Changing Place’ that is available 24/7 would be a massive improvement. And what if a person with disabilities wanted to go somewhere else on the Isle of Man? Wouldn’t it be nice if people could go to the toilet in Ramsey or Port Erin?
Or even… Nobles Hospital? Wouldn’t it be good if a person with more complex physical disabilities could visit a loved one who is in hospital? Or attend an outpatient appointment, confident that if required, a toilet is available? Currently (and I’ve had this told to me first hand) if someone needs urgent attention with their continence, if they are not a patient, they can not be helped in the hospital. They can’t use a bed or hoist, even if they have someone with them who would meet their needs.
Yet I happen to know that the new facility for people who have a learning disability, on the Nobles Hospital site, has a Changing Places room. But at the moment (unless something has changed recently) it is not available for people who aren’t using that specific service. I suggested that it should be (and advertised as being available) so that when a person is visiting the hospital, they know there is something available within the hospital grounds, if it is needed? Perhaps if people who would use it (or their family/carers), demand access, then we would have two Changing Places toilets available to those who need them? That’s got to be better than staying at home.
But in the mean time, let’s celebrate success and make sure that everyone who needs it, knows there is at least one, excellent facility and encourage people to visit the Manx Museum in Douglas. The ‘Changing Place’ leaflet, including address, are scanned below.
PS: The cafe is rather nice too! Kipper pate… mmm…
Learn more about Changing Places, including planning a journey around the UK using them by visiting their web site.