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For Stoma Aware Lindsay Lambert tells us how negative experiences while using accessible toilets have driven her to campaign for change.
“After being diagnosed over five years ago with stage two bowel cancer and having a permanent stoma, I have experienced many challenges on my journey to adapt to my new lifestyle, and one of the biggest is toilets and the comments and stares I face from people who have no understanding of why someone with a stoma would need to use an accessible toilet.
I have been chastised, argued with and sometimes verbally abused for using an accessible facility, which over the years since having my stoma has caused me to feel anxious when going out to new places, knowing I will need to use disabled toilets am am going to have to prove I need those facilities just because I can walk and look fit and well. I still need to change my bag on a flat wipeable surface or shelf, in some cases when there has been neither or not even a toilet seat I have had to reduce to using the floor, hook at the back of the door to hang clothing and my medical bag.
I had a terrible experience within the first year of having my stoma. It was in Marks & Spencer. I had leaked slightly so needed a loo pretty quick, usually I would have used a normal toilet cubicle, but I knew I would have to wash myself and change some items of clothing so I entered the accessible one.
I was quite some time as is understandable in the circumstances and once sorted I emerged from the facility, where I was immediately greeted with a very rude woman who wanted to know why I was using a disabled facility when I wasn’t in a wheelchair and she had been waiting over twenty minutes to help her wheelchair bound mum. I was so shocked and embarrassed, as there was now a small queue for the ladies toilets, that I burst into tears.
So all in all public toilets have made me feel very anxious about going out, and I now change my bag on the back seat of my car, knowing I’m not upsetting anyone, it’s clean and I am familiar with my surroundings, my husband stands on guard though!
The negativity from some of the general public has made me feel like this i need to do this. Not my stoma! I have every right to use accessible toilets without having to put a sticker on my forehead reading I have a disability which isn’t visible, please be kind.
Recently the Junction 32 shopping Outlet in Castleford has adopted Stoma Friendly accessible toilets. When i read about this I approached Junction 32 to see how I could support them to make their facilities even more welcoming to people living with a stoma.
They were really approachable and supportive which has given me the confidence to continue with my campaigning. I’m not going to stop until every accessible toilet has a notice saying we are stoma friendly and not all disabilities are visible!”
If you’d like to join our Stoma Friendly toilets campaign please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your address and we’ll send you our campaign pack in the post.