On the 29th June 2021, we launched our new accessible toilet signage at Cardiff Central Library, as part of our #BeTheChange initiative.
Voices panel member, advocate and Respond user, Rachel, was with us on the day to share in our excitement, and to share her first-hand experiences when using an accessible toilet, and how important inclusive signage is for all with a stoma or invisible illness. Here is what Rachel had to say about the day and her experiences:
What is Be The Change?
Be The Change is a campaign I have had the honour of being involved with since 2019. The campaign aims to raise awareness and educate society that not all illnesses can be seen. The intention was that Cardiff would lead the way in understanding the needs of people with hidden illnesses, shining a light on the disadvantages people face with waste collections and accessing public toilets in the UK. Search the website below for my fellow ostomates speeches sharing their experiences, including mine and my son Jake: https://bethechangeuk.com/bethechange-voices/
Fantastic progress was made in June 2021, when signage designed by students in Cardiff Metropolitan University was approved by Cardiff Council as an addition to the wheelchair sign on disabled toilets in Cardiff’s Hub buildings. It is hoped that the signage will be rolled out across the city, and private business owners will adopt it in acknowledgement of the 92% of disabled toilet users that have a hidden illness.
In situations where I have needed to use the facilities when caring for my son, or myself as we both have stomas, I have experienced tutting, whispers and store colleagues in well know supermarkets telling me I should use the ladies toilets. THIS IS NOT OK. The lack of understanding where hidden illnesses are concerned is very real. The new signage of a broken circle represents the different illnesses people experience, made to represent those of us who require disabled toilet facilities who may not necessarily appear on the outside to need them.
When passing someone in the street you have no idea what kind of day they are having, if they are in pain, suffering physically, mentally or both. Quite frankly it isn’t anyones business, so why do people feel the need to tell someone they aren’t entitled to use disabled toilets when they have no idea why they are using them? For those that make sounds and whispered comments, we hear them, we feel them. Does it make you feel better, because it can ruin our day whether you realise it or not? Having something as simple as the new signage gives a visual reminder of this and gives the users the reassurance that they are entitled, they should use them, and they shouldn’t feel they need to justify or explain themselves.
When I first saw the sign on the door I felt quite emotional. I didn’t expect to be but I did. I don’t want my son to experience some of the horrendous accusations told by my fellow Be The Change Voices. He deserves to use them in the way someone without a hidden illness does, to go in and do what he needs to do whilst leaving without a second thought or worry of what people outside may think or say. ITV Wales kindly covered the unveiling and a news report was aired where I shared my views. Watch it here.
It was quite the experience to say the least! I am an ex teacher turned blogger/baker so this was completely out of my comfort zone. The team from Pelican Healthcare and Deb from Cardiff and Vale really looked after me. Councillor Susan Elsmore and Julie Morgan MS were in attendance with full admiration and support for the campaign. It felt like I spent the day with friends. We laughed, shared stories and connected through the momentous occasion we were privileged to be a part of. I can’t thank them enough and had to restrain myself from hugging them all goodbye. This is just the start of what the Be The Change campaign can achieve and I hope you will join us on this journey.
Take care, Rach X