Fiona, a young disabled woman, smiles and poses for a photograph

“You do not need to be in a wheelchair to be disabled!”

Guest blog from Fi Munro. Fi has been living positively with stage four ovarian cancer since her diagnosis at the age of 30. 

Since her diagnosis she has personally raised and inspired others to raise thousands of pounds for various charities by sharing her story. As a blogger and campaigner, she strives to improve awareness of ovarian cancer.

She uses a colostomy bag and has recently experienced a number of negative attitudes when using a disabled toilet at London King’s Cross Station.

Okay, I’m getting on my soap box.

I hate, hate, hate the ignorance and stigma around invisible disabilities. Let’s get one thing clear, you do not need to be in a wheelchair to be disabled!

In January 2016 I was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer and then in May 2016 I had a massive operation to remove five organs and a few partial organs. This resulted in me having a colostomy bag, which I’ve talked about at length in a post on my own blog.

One of the main impacts of this is that I need to use a disabled toilet now to ‘sort myself out’ and I even have an awesome universal radar key that opens all disabled toilets with a ‘radar lock’ – handy!

Fiona, a young disabled woman, smiles and poses for a photograph

Are you a doctor?

At the weekend, I was in London Kings Cross Station and before boarding the train I went to use the disabled toilet. Changing a colostomy bag on a moving train is not a pretty sight, especially if you are receiving ongoing cancer treatment. I’ll let you use your imagination!

There were two disabled toilets and both were occupied so I waited. On either side there were lengthy queues to the ‘normal’ male and female toilets. When one of the disabled toilets became free I went to enter and a staff member put their arm in front of me and told me that I couldn’t use it because I’m “not disabled”.

Erm, wait a minute!

Are you a doctor?

More importantly, are you my doctor?

Are you psychic?

Do you have any idea how offensive that presumption is?

I was so upset! In front of a crowd of people I had to explain my situation in detail before I was allowed into the toilet. And, as those of you with a colostomy know, time is precision in these moments!

When I was finally allowed in I locked the door and burst into tears!

It didn’t get better from there either. I came out to ‘tutting’ observers and staff shaking their heads. I was so upset and felt so stigmatised. This needs to change!

Not all disabilities are visible

Fiona, a young disabled woman, smiles with her colostomy bagWe need better public awareness and better staff training. I would like to highlight that I am not so much upset with the member of staff I mentioned – more so the lack of training given to them and also the lack of awareness from the general public around invisible disabilities.

Together we can make a difference and help remove stigma by recognising that not all disabilities are visible.

Please share and help ensure that no one else is made to feel stigmatised.

Thank you!

Love and light, Fi

You can follow Fi on Facebook or read more about her experiences on her blog.

3 thoughts on ““You do not need to be in a wheelchair to be disabled!””

  1. A story we hear time and time again. I have a muscle condition which means that I do not always use my stick but need a toilet with handles on the walk to help me get off the seat. I have a radar key but my invisible disability means that I have had many cruel looks and snide comments. I also feel this when I very legitimately park my car in a disabled space with my blue badge. I am afraid that this bad prejudice will always be the way. Love and wishes x

  2. It’s a shame that the attitude of the general public and indeed some professionals remains in the “dark ages,” as a learning disability nurse clients with a visible disability or those who didn’t “look normal” were more easily forgiven for unacceptable behaviour than those who looked “normal”

  3. Invisible disability warriors experience negative attituded because non disabled people do not know what goes on within an accessible loo. If they did they might leave the facility clean! I was once an invisible needing space whilst learning how to manage the Intermittent Catherisation Process and associated medical activities. Space and some cleanliness was necessary to avoid the dreaded UTI. I progressed to wheelchair access. Hmm then i looked like the symbol on the door. Yes i get annoyed by the misuse mostly male staff in stores , entering with literature for a private relaxed crap. Ages of waiting which makes all disabled users angry. The radar key helps and its use should be increased. We should enable awareness because secrets can breed envy and misuse.

Comments are closed.