Toilet Talk

More people in Britain suffer from incontinence than suffer from asthma or diabetes!

The Bladder & Bowel Foundation statistic demonstrates that maybe it’s time we ‘talked toilet’ more openly. The organisation claims up to 14million people have bladder control problems, and at least 6.5million bowel issues.

As a nation, the British have always shied away from discussing bodily functions, and delegate anything related to bottoms particularly as purely a laughing matter. But if you suffer from bladder or bowel issues, you know it is actually serious. It impacts on almost every aspect of your life.

The implications of the problem vary hugely: it may be comparatively easily managed in day- to-day life by wearing a pad. That’s fine if there’s always easy access to toilet facilities, especially away from home, where it can be changed to avoid dampness, odour. But that’s only appropriate for mild cases. When it’s more severe, much more thought is required, and even a trip to the shops needs careful planning.

How long is the trip going to last? Will there be an evacuation? What suitable toilet facilities will be available? Note my use of ‘suitable’: on the whole, conventional ambulant or wheelchair-accessible toilets actually are not suitable. If the soiling is not minimal, there may be a need to clean beyond just a wipe with a couple of sheets of toilet tissue. It may require a change of pad, or nappy. It may require a change of underwear- or more.

Sufferers need to be able to access at least appropriate cleaning facilities, and in all likelihood changing facilities. We’re all aware these are a standard provision for babies. But if the person is bigger than a baby….that’s a different story.

For many sufferers, the choices are stark: double pad, carefully time/plan your trip so a ‘comfort break’ is not a requirement, or stay at home. In modern society, should people be having to live like that? Even if we have full bladder & bowel control, we need to empty them on average eight times a day. Do the math: every three hours or so, we will need access to a WC.

Too often, therefore, the only solution is therefore to double pad. It’s not the most comfortable solution, but it does the job. Is ‘doing the job’ a satisfactory solution though? There ARE suitable toilet facilities. They’re called Changing Places, and Space to Change, toilets(*). With at least an adult-sized changing bench, they provide more suitable toilet facilities. Yet in the whole of Britain, there are only about 1000.

The recent Women & Equality Select Committee report recommended that the law be changed so that at least Changing Places became a legal requirement in all new large building developments, unless it is proven there is adequate provision in the locality. Let us hope that this is one issue that is recognised beyond Party politics, and is addressed during the new Government’s term in office.

In the meantime, sufferers reading this now know that there are suitable toilets in existence, and can choose where to go relaxed in the knowledge they can access appropriate facilities. Or you can join the campaign to encourage more venues to provide them, either lobbying local places you’d like to access, but can’t, or by working on a wider scale…

If you want to find out more about Changing Places, Space to Change, and/or get some ideas, help on getting the toilets provided locally, click here:


By Claire Haymes, away from home advisor @ Clos-o-Mat

(*)a Changing Places toilet is provided in addition to conventional wheelchair-accessible toilets, and provides more space (3m x 4m),and equipment including an adult-sized height adjustable changing bench, ceiling track hoist, shower, privacy screen.

A Space to Change is intended for venues that do not have the space for a full Changing Places, and builds on a conventional wheelchair-accessible toilet by being slightly larger (7.5m2) with a hoist and adult-sized changing bench.