Access to a Public Loo!

I took some time to think about my approach to my blog post. “Access” encompasses so many issues it was a little bit daunting to pick one. 

I wanted to make sure I picked a topic that I fully relate to. One obvious topic is access to treatments or specialists or hospitals... something people in Donegal know all too well about, regardless of the illness they have. But I’ve been lucky; I lived in Dublin for my diagnosis and initial treatments, and never had to contend with a 10-hour round trip to see a specialist. So I didn’t feel in a position to write about it. Thankfully.

I had another think about it. I came up with a topic that isn’t really talked about, and is likely to embarrass the hell out of me. However, it also isn’t high on the list of issues people associate with MS, so in the spirit of raising awareness and relating to others, I decided to write about needing a wee.

Or more specifically- being out somewhere and suddenly realising you’re going to pee yourself but you haven’t any idea where the nearest public loo is!!

I’ve had a few close calls, and thankfully I’ve always managed to find a toilet, but it’s now yet another thing I’ve to consider before going somewhere.

Do you know where the nearest public toilet is to you right now? If not, it’s possibly because you don’t have to worry about needing it. Or have had to consider how few there actually are. And, trust me, there are even less that you’d actually use.  

I’m sure some people are wondering why I don’t go before I leave the house. I do. And when I get to wherever I am going, I figure out where the loos are. I get pretty stressed if I am not sure where the bathroom is. If I need to wee, I need to wee NOW. There isn’t much of a warning period, so it’s pretty important to me that I know I can go.  

A lot of shops and cafes do have toilets, but in many cases they are for customers only. You have to be a bit brazen to stroll in and use it, while trying not to catch the eye of anyone working there. So more often than not, I end up buying something. I’d like to say at this point, I don’t at all think shops and cafes should be obliged to make their toilet available to non-patrons. But it’s nice when they do.

Disabled toilets are a grey area for me. I don’t really know what the accepted etiquette is... are they just another toilet to be used by anyone, with priority given to disabled people? Or should we queue for the other toilets and leave the wheelchair accessible one empty? I’ll absolutely use it if there are no other toilets available. I always feel a bit of a fraud though, strolling in (or running, let’s face it- I am in a rush) with no obvious disability. 

While writing this post I did a little research into “Can’t Wait” cards. Research that equates to a bit of Googling and sending one Facebook message! I’d read about them before on the UK’s Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website and I think they are a really good idea. It’s a little card for your wallet explaining that you have MS and that you need to urgently use the toilet. So, if you are in a place with no public toilet, you can show the card and ask to access the facilities. Similar cards are used by people with Crohn’s disease and colitis. I don’t think (I am open to correction) that any Irish organisations produce these cards.  

Obviously there are some companies which aren’t in a position to allow members of the public access to their staff toilets.  It’s not practical everywhere. But, for people like me, it would be reassuring to know that we could nip into an office if we needed to. I’d love to see buildings with a sticker displayed in the window showing that it’s ok for people with carrying a card, like the Can’t Wait one, to use the loo. A friend sent me this link to a similar scheme in Leeds.  

I know it’s not for everyone- some people won’t want to draw attention to their MS (or Crohn’s) by having to produce a card declaring their toilet needs to all and sundry. But like a lot of MS issues I come across in my journey, it’s about having the choice. And anything that makes life a wee bit easier is a good thing!

Do you think you’d use a card like this?

Would your place of work allow members of the public with a medical condition to access the toilet facilities?

It’s something to think about, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.