Care opinion

WHAT’S IN A WORD? Asks Robin Tuffley, marketing manager @ Clos-o-Mat


Last month was National Obesity Awareness Week. We were somewhat surprised that a professional accessibility consultant queried what obesity was to do with accessibility.


There’s already been much debate about whether obesity is a disability- and according to the High Court it is. If you care for someone with a weight issue, you know first hand what considerations and limitations it imposes in daily life. That includes accessibility- being able to get out of the home, out and about, through narrow doors, sit in a standard chair, get on a bus, in the shower, into a loo…! Even slim, non-disabled people have problems using the toilets in some venues, eateries!!


So what is your definition of accessibility? If you are a web designer, for example, it means something completely different to someone in the care sector. I often wish, in today’s wired society, that the marketeers, people who devise a website brief in the outset, would broaden their interpretation of the word.


I give you a challenge: think of somewhere you’d like to visit with the person or people you care for, go onto its website to see how accessible that venue is for you- by which you and I mean disabled parking, level access, toilet facilities- perhaps even including a hoist, braile, hearing loops.


If you click its ‘accessibility’ tab, few will give you that type of information. And that does assume there’s an accessibility section in the first place! If you’re lucky, it will be covered somewhere, perhaps under ‘facilities’.


Even then, the depth of information provision can be lacking.


As a company we work closely with campaigners for Changing Places- the ‘bigger and better’ wheelchair accessible toilets that further include an adult-sized changing bench and ceiling track hoist. They frequently relate real life experiences of going somewhere and being delighted to find it has a toilet facility that has a hoist, changing bench, yet the venue makes no mention of this fact.


To the campaigners, and we’re sure tens of thousands of other people who need or care for someone who needs these facilities, that knowledge is invaluable. It’s being able to go somewhere, and know there are suitable toilets if needed. It’s being able to go somewhere and relax, even doing the weekly shop.


To the campaigners, and 1 in every 260 of us who needs a Changing Places, even a wheelchair-accessible toilet is still not accessible, because they need that extra space and equipment. Many of you reading this may find Changing Places of use for your clients, and didn’t even know they existed!


Consider, with Health & Safety guidelines on moving and handling, what implications do those guidelines have on planning a day trip with clients, because of the need to assist with wheelchair transfers, help someone who is large, or less mobile, supple? How do you manage if on a day trip to deal with toilet matters? You’ve probably, historically, double-padded to avoid the whole situation, or stuck to venues that are so close to ‘home’ you can be there and back before nature calls.


Yet if you could access a Changing Places toilet…you have space for the user and up to two carers, you have a hoist, you have an adult-sized changing bench. Suddenly a venue that was a ‘no go’ is a ‘go go’!


And if there’s somewhere you’d like to take your clients, but can’t because of the issues addressed above, then maybe use your ‘people power’ to lobby that place to install a Changing Places. You and your charges would go. You’d talk to your colleagues, they’d perhaps take their charges too…It suddenly, quickly becomes worthwhile! If you really want to make that difference, there is a raft of resources, facts, figures etc available for free download:


So make accessibility mean something for disabled people…

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