Is it when they can walk?
When they can talk? When they’re potty trained?
When they are a certain age?
Or something else?
Who decides when a baby is no longer a baby and therefore no longer worthy of having a clean safe place to have their continence needs met?
If it is based on walking, talking or being potty trained then you could class my son as a baby because he can’t do any of those things. He has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and can’t sit or stand let alone walk, he also can’t speak. He can use a toilet but he isn’t toilet trained and still has to wear a nappy because he can’t always let us know when he needs to go.
Until the age of about three or four he had the luxury of being provided with a facility in most large buildings when we were out, with a safe place he could lie down and have his nappy changed.
But then.. shock horror… he grew!
He now weighs 21kg (approx 3 1/2 stone in old money) which is far too heavy for the wall mounted baby changing units we’re all used to seeing in public toilets. He’s also too tall.
But he still has all the other characteristics of a baby who needs that facility, so why is it not provided for him? Why is his age and size the reason he has been stripped of any dignity when it comes to needing a toilet when out and about in the UK?
Faecal incontinence is an embarrassing and stressful condition for children and families. Studies also show it affects 3.5% of boys and 1% of girls aged 5 years and 1.2% of boys and 0.3% of girls aged 10–12 years and 1.4% of the general population over 40 years old.
That’s works out to over 2.7 million people – that’s a lot of people that aren’t being provided with somewhere dignified to have their continence needs met isn’t it!
Many of these people will be physically disabled and will require space for a wheelchair, somewhere clean to sit or lay down to be cleaned / clean themselves and many will also require a hoist if they cannot stand.
But because they are over the age of 3 or 4 they will have no option other than to use the toilet floor or remain sitting in their own mess until they can return home. We wouldn’t leave a baby in a dirty nappy so why is this ok?
I am always talking about discrimination in terms of disability but what about in terms of age discrimination? Why are people under 3 provided with facilities that those over 3 require but aren’t being provided? Why aren’t our UK businesses providing somewhere all encompassing to welcome people of all ages and ability?
A family changing facility would provide a simple answer to this problem and would mean that anyone who needs it would have somewhere safe and dignified they could have their continence needs met in complete privacy regardless of their age or ability.
Imagine if all UK businesses thought outside the box for a moment and transformed their baby changing facilities into ‘people’ changing facilities by replacing their baby changing units with an adult changing bench and by adding a hoist. Of course some existing rooms may not be ideal because of size but if EVERY business did this then even those that were too small for some wouldn’t be an issue because there would be other options nearby.
No longer would we be spending time worrying about whether we could leave the house. No longer would people be risking their health by laying on unhygienic toilet floors. No longer would carers be risking their backs by carrying out manual handling. No longer would we have to try and find some wifi so we can check a map to see where the nearest toilet is and then realise it’s miles away and it would be quicker to go home.
Everyone would be able to leave the house safe in the knowledge that if they needed the toilet they could easily find one.
Why don’t we live in a world like this?
I’d love to hear your comments on whether you think this is an age discrimination issue as well as a disability one!