We’ve all been there, heart sinking. A desperate child crossing their legs and you see the notice –“These toilets are now closed”. Now what? The next nearest ones are 15 minutes walk away on a good day, unencumbered by a hopping 6 year old. You’re not allowed to use those in the nearby café, but you’ll just have to beg. Or a quick visit behind an inadequate hedge, hoping no-one passes, “tutting” with disapproval.
It sounds funny, but for many people, the ongoing closure of public toilets is a real problem that impinges on their independence and their ability to get out and about. Many of our clients are fitted with colostomy bags where surgery has gone wrong; some have movement disorders or limited mobility after accidents and some have conditions that mean they have continence urgency-if they have to go, they HAVE to go.
These limitations are not our clients’ fault; they will have been imposed on them by someone else’s negligence. But we mustn’t forget those who are born with such limitations, or have similar age related problems or those with mental health issues who can’t always control bodily functions.
What prompted this blog was an article in one of the Sunday newspapers about the disappearance of public toilets and the use “redundant” ones were put to:
These were quite inventive.
But we recalled that back in the summer of this year, the City of Lincoln Council decided that to save money, they would start closing public toilets. They said then that it “wasn’t a decision they wanted to take”, but it was necessary on financial grounds to save money.
There is in fact no legal requirement to provide public toilets, but for all of us, not just those of us with continence issues, they are a real necessity. They can certainly make the difference between a pleasant and comfortable day out and a really miserable one-or worse, deciding not to go out at all because of the worry and stress of finding there are no accessible toilets.
As Bailgate business owner Fiona Purkiss said at the time, while protesting against the closures:
“It’s a moral obligation; the council is the only body that can provide public services such as loos and they need to reopen them immediately.”
Lincoln is a big tourist area and one of the main things tourists want is good toilet facilities and plenty of them.
It is all very well the Council saying “Well, there are alternative facilities within a reasonable distance”. This may be true if you are Usain Bolt with a sudden urge, but not if you have limitations, as our clients do. Similarly, they say they will provide unisex toilets, toilets open for “special events” (i.e, erratic opening hours), contactless payment toilets, but none of this is of any consolation to those who just want a toilet nearby when they need it. Some will be embarrassed by unisex or gender- neutral toilets and others will be confused by payment differences -they should ideally be free to all anyway.
We know that councils have to watch their budgets, because ultimately, it is our money they are spending, but toilets are something everyone needs all the time. Our disabled and injured clients, or those with disabled dependents, should not have their lives curtailed or made less enjoyable by the lack of such a basic facility. Heaven knows they have enough to put up with!