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A great-grandmother from Leeds has said more needs to be done to make the city “stoma friendly” after her confidence was knocked by a recent shopping trip. (As told to BBC look North)
Lyn Morgan, 67, said she “burst into tears” due to a lack of suitable toilet facilities on her first return to the city centre since stoma surgery
Ms Morgan said she was left “in shock” by her experience in the city.
She had her stoma after being diagnosed with cancer when her bowel habits changed during the first Covid lockdown in 2020.
She said hearing the news she needed a stoma was “very frightening”.
“I still want to live my life and do what I want to do,” she said.
After receiving radiotherapy, she underwent an operation to have her stoma fitted in 2021.
She said eventually she felt ready to venture into Leeds city centre again for a shopping trip with a friend.
However, when she went to the toilet at the Leeds City Council-owned market, she said she realised there was a serious lack of facilities for her to hygienically change her stoma bag.
More toilet facilities in Leeds need to take the needs of people with a stoma into account, Ms Morgan says
She said: “I stood there in shock. There was nothing: no shelf, no hook, no mirror. I just stood there and cried because I didn’t know what to do.
“I thought, what’s the point of going out if I can’t find somewhere that is hygienic? So many places aren’t stoma friendly.”
Ms Morgan added that most disabled toilets were not suitable for people with a stoma.
In July, she took her campaign to make Leeds more stoma friendly to the city council.
She addressed councillors at a full meeting of the authority, who backed her call to improve facilities with things like hooks on toilet doors and shelves.
Leeds City Council said the authority was “committed to improving our facilities so they are more accessible”.
“We have been making some changes to the facilities – for example, following comments from a campaigner in 2020, we started the process of improving signage on our accessible toilets,” a spokesperson said.
“We will continue to look into what we, along with partners and the private sector across the city who also operate public toilets, can do to make further progress to making more of our facilities stoma friendly.”
Changes have already been made to improve facilities at the White Rose Centre in Leeds.
After being approached by Ms Morgan earlier this year, the owners of the White Rose shopping centre in Leeds said they had already made changes to its toilet facilities.
Steven Foster, shopping director for the White Rose and Trinity Leeds centres, said: “We’re keen to understand how to reduce barriers for all shoppers, especially those with disabilities.”
He added that the changes Ms Morgan had asked for were “not difficult”.
“The cost was negligible and they recognise the benefit it will have to people,” Mr Foster said.
The Colostomy UK charity, which supports people with a stoma, said over 200,000 people in the UK were living with a stoma – an estimated 2,500 people in Leeds and around 16,100 in the wider Yorkshire area.
In a recent survey by the charity, 62% of respondents said a lack of suitable toilet facilities affected their daily life, limiting their ability to do many of the things others took for granted.
Ms Morgan said she would now take her Stoma Friendly Toilets campaign to shopping centres and train operators across Yorkshire.
“I want to help other people who have a stoma. Many people are in the same position and it’s a mission,” she said.
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