Pain of woman forced to change disabled son on dirty toilet floor
- Credit: Archant
Imagine this: you’re in a public place, and you realise you need the loo. You’re incontinent, so you use the nappy you’re wearing, then make your way to the toilets to change it. But unlike a baby, you can’t lie on the changing table whilst your parent or carer makes you clean and dry. You’re too big for it. But what’s the alternative?
This is the challenge that faces Fay Hough when she takes her five-year-old son Bowie, who is autistic, out for the day.
At 3ft 9ins tall and 3st 8lb, he’s big for his age is too heavy for a conventional baby changing table, so how does the above scene end for him?
“He’s lying on this dirty floor in a cold room and he’s just lying there crying his eyes out,” his mother explains.
It’s an experience that will be familiar to the quarter of a million of disabled people with incontinence issues - and now Fay is championing the issue and a petition started by another mother frustrated with the issue, which at the time of writing has 16,500 signatures.
It’s not just an issue of hygiene, but one of dignity and in Fay’s case, physical safety.
As well as being autistic, Bowie has sensory processing issues which make sensations – such as the discomfort of lying on a floor – feel more intense, and he reacts accordingly.
“I have been kicked, I have been punched, because he is doing whatever he can to get out of this situation,” says Fay, who works for Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas.
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To make matters worse, she often has to contend with looks and even remarks from other mothers when she tries to change Bowie, due to the fact that his disabilities are not visible to the naked eye: “People say “this toilet is for disabled people only,” she said.
Fay wrote a powerful blogpost for the Dagenham and Rainham Constituency Labour Party about the humiliating problem, but she believes that the solution is is simple: “All they have to do is put adult changing tables in disabled loos. They are big anyway because they have to fit wheelchairs in, so there’s space.
“It’s just a bit of plastic on the wall an that will make a big difference, because my child won’t have to lay on the dirty floor.”
The government says that there are 918 public toilets such as the one Fay describes, but there is just one locally, in Becontree Heath leisure centre.
“That’s because it was built for the Olympics and they did Paralympic training there,” Fay explains.
The petition urges the government to make the provision of these loos “mandatory” rather than “desirable”.
“Sign the petition so we can give our children a dignified way of being changed,” Fay said. “It’s not right. You don’t want them walking around a shopping centre or wherever with a dirty nappy.”