Why do the majority of disabled toilets have no facilities for disabled children?

Guest post from Darren Phelps, who has a 3-year-old son with Cerebral Palsy. Darren has been lobbying major supermarket chains about their disabled toilets only being set up for adults.

When out and about with my son, who cannot take himself to the toilet without help , we have always struggled. Disabled toilets are rarely equipped for children. We have to hover our son over the toilet as he is unable to sit on his own because of his disability. He goes very tense and struggles to go to the toilet and my partner is finding it harder to lift him as he grows.

I started my campaign by lobbying the “big four” supermarkets -asking why they ignore the needs of disabled children. I contacted all of them with simple suggestions on how to improve their toilets without costing a fortune. My suggestions were:

  • A simple step that would make it easier so that a child could be high enough to be able to balance with help and a boy to go for a wee.
  • A removable seat (most parents of a disabled child will have these at home) that would help most parents whose children have problems standing even with assistance.

Two out of the four supermarkets responded with the standard “we will raise this issue next time we look at our disabled toilet structure” – no timescale or agreement that it’s an issue. I’m still waiting for one to respond.

Tesco really surprised me, they took the time to ring me and listen to the problem. They agreed that this is a major issue and thanked me for bringing it to there attention. They also said they will implement my suggestions in my local store and they will also log it as a nationwide problem and roll out the changes nationwide! Let’s hope they stick to their word.

I now plan on taking my fight for disabled children further – lobbying government to force changes into how disabled toilets should be set up and that they actually cater for children as well!

22 thoughts on “Why do the majority of disabled toilets have no facilities for disabled children?”

  1. We have the same difficulties. We carry around a removable seat everywhere we go for my daughter but have often thought it wouldn’t be so difficult for theses to be made available.

  2. Wow – you are so right, we have 2 disabled children and always carry round a portable toilet seat to enable our 5 year old to go – fortunately it just hangs discretely on the back of her wheelchair, underneath her bag. We are starting to have more problems with our 3 year old who is still in nappies/pull ups but who is now much to long and heavy for the pull down changing tables for infants. He doesn’t yet stand reliably enough to change him stood up. Big step forward though if Tescos keep their word, lets just hope.

  3. This is a problem for us but because we have to lay our child on the floor as the are no facilities to change her on a changing bed. They give you a hook to hang your handbag so it doesn’t touch the floor but they except you to lay your child on that same floor. She can’t use a toilet so needs changing laying down whether it is a pad or all her clothes because she has been sick. It is not acceptable in this day and age.

  4. It only gets more difficult- once they are more than double the weight you would dare to put in a baby changer there is nothing! Well other than a dirty , wet toilet floor!!!

  5. More disabled toilets need to be changing places toilets, it’s not just children that are having to lie on the cold floor to have nappies or clothing changed – it’s grown adults too, in those very small rooms with a wheelchair in there too!
    There are simply not enough changing places toilets, we need more of them and these can easily hold an extra toilet seat for smaller children as there is actually room to store it. I think these campaigns should join together.

    1. I’m fighting for changing places toilets to be put in Kendal, working with children/adults with learning difficulties I have experienced the changing on the toilet floor etc disgusting !

  6. I struggle to find somewhere to lie my son on I heard Liverpool one have a changing room with a bed and a hoist when on long days out I have to lift my 6 stone son in the back of my car to change him or sit on a dirty floor with him across my legs your absolutely right more places should give this a thought if more people state this then councils might actually get there fingers out and sort there priorities out !!!!

  7. Another issue is there are very few stores that have a family restroom or unisex restroom. My son is 20 and sometimes requires my assistance when using the restroom. It’s awful to deal with.

  8. What about children who need a table to change? The changing tables are only able to accommodate infants and toddlers. What about older children? I have an 11 year old cp child who was changed on a desk because there was no way he was going to be changed on the floor of the bathroom!

  9. And it only gets worse as they get older and heavier. My 12 year old daughter is unable to sit up so does not use a toilet and has to be changed laying down. It is virtually impossible to find anywhere to change her in public, other than laying her on a dirty toilet floor. We often have to plan our day around nappy changes, which often means going out for a few hours, coming back to change, then going back again, which is not great! Something really needs to be done to help our children.

  10. Our 6 year old daughter is in nappies due to spina bifida, imperforate anus and large part of pelvic floor missing. We have to either use disabled toilets and lay her over our knee to change her, or use baby changing facilities that are too small and unsafe, and hurt her back, to change her. A simple larger pull down unit in the disabled toliet, built to take the weight of a child and not just a baby, would make a massive difference to our lives when we take the kids out, and to megan’s, who wouldn’t have to be in pain whenever we change her from her back hurting.

  11. Please note Disability (Access to Premises —
    Buildings) Standards 2010 is due for review over the next 6 months. I appeal to all parents to write to the Federal Industry Minister, Ian MacFarlane, to explain what challenges you and your children experience. I also encourage you to join Children with a Disability Australia, the peak federal advocacy body, which will be campaigning hard on this issue. Regards, Sean R.

  12. its about time they all got this sorted in the big store’s they make enough money of us’ they can more than afford to put them in !!

  13. Why is no one listening? Thousands of parents need better facilities for their children! Just because the children grow at different paces doesnt mean we can pretend they are not deserving of some dignity and consideration! This does nothing to promote parents to help their children have decent and happy experiences.

  14. I have to say, Tesco have always been the best supermarket for us to visit. Having a non-walking child of 5 is a challenge and we know we can always get a suitable trolley for a disabled child without hassle. It’s good that they came back to you on the toilet issue.

    Another thing we struggle with – aside from finding an accessible disabled toilet! – is somewhere that has enough clean space to lie a child down to change nappies. Our son is good at telling us when he needs to go but if we’re out it’s generally impossible to catch it which ends up in an accident.

    I really hope this is taken seriously by those who can help.

  15. The massive problem with ‘disabled’ toilets is for those who are incontinent. Trying to change a teenager on a dirty toilet floor because there are no hoists, changing benches is a much bigger issue imo.

  16. There are 2 issues here in these responses – 1 set of issues – ie children who need a small reasonable adjustment to make standard toilets accessible and 2 – those who need more bespoke and more expensive changing places facilities. I hope Scope takes up both issues with sufficient vigour to make a difference. Please don’t forget the needs of those who need changing places because the issue is more expensive and more difficult.

  17. For me there needs to be a “engaged/in use” sign on the public disabled toilets (I live in London)
    There has been many times where I have had to leave my son on the toilet by himself while trying to stop another user from gaining entrance (as we all have a ‘radar’ key)
    The last time this happened to us, the person was deaf so couldn’t hear me shouting “there’s someone in here” – a rather embarrassing moment for my son!

  18. My ‘bug bear’ as a disabled adult is lack of mirrors in many disabled loos and staff using the extra space for storing cleaning products/machines – frustrating (!) but the problems encountered with disabled children on this blog are horrendous and surely unacceptable!!
    Best of luck with the campaign Darren.

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