Regular UNITE columnist Sarah Brisdion shares her experiences of the inaugural Looathon she organised in the latest issue…
‘How inappropriate!’ That was one of the comments we had from a passerby, as we sat, pants around our ankles, on the loo in Baker Street, London, on 11 May, to raise awareness of the need for better accessible toilets.
The demonstration was supposed to take place in the Bathstore shop window, but glorious sunshine threw us a curved ball, as the reflection on the glass stopped us being seen. So we took to the street! Suddenly every inch of (and bruise on) my lily-white thighs was visible!
To be honest, I’m not offended by that comment. It’s a good thing that what we were doing got attention and provoked a reaction. That was after all, the point. Even though that lady didn’t agree with our tactics, she now knows about Changing Places toilets and that hundreds of thousands of disabled people are forced to lie on filthy toilet floors to have their continence needs met. I’m pretty sure that is way more inappropriate. Besides, I’ve shown more flesh to the parents in my local swimming baths!
Perhaps when she got home and digested the information, she might have felt differently. Perhaps not. But I suspect she might have told somebody about it – especially as she felt so strongly! So the word will have spread. We did our job.
But that was not the general response to our Looathon. We were hugely supported, by so many brilliant people. People who travelled from all over the country to be with us and shout about the desperate need for benches and hoists. People willing to share their stories and speak to the press about them. I felt absolutely honoured to have so many there who care so much about getting this issue heard. People that I will forever call my tribe.
We had amazing support from those who couldn’t make it too – with social media going wild and many celebrity retweets which helped so much to spread the message further.
There are currently only 1093 Changing Places toilets in the whole of the UK – which sounds a lot until you consider that Wembley Stadium alone has 2,618 toilets! For many disabled people who need help accessing the loo, London is a no-go zone, with just a handful of Changing Places toilets in the West End and most only available if you are specifically visiting the venue. Which is why we decided to descend on the capital.
But this problem is everywhere. So where to go next? To find out more about the campaign, search #PantsDown4Equality
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