(Left to right: Jen Slater, Lisa Procter, Proctor, Charlotte Jones)
Everyone has a toilet story. Sometimes they’re funny, told amongst friends and interspersed with laughter from behind coy hands, smiles and blushing faces, and sometimes they’re whispered or guiltily divulged in secrecy or shame. Sometimes they’re spoken casually, or proudly, without deliberation. But often they’re not told at all. We believe these stories and experiences are important, and in this zine we wanted to provide a place to collect them, alongside musings, ideas and opinions about the varied – sometimes mundane, but often crucial – role that toilets play in our lives. Our work on a project called Around the Toilet started with a focus on different ways of thinking about ‘accessibility’ and exclusion in public space. We argued that current ways of thinking about toilet access are too narrow and generic. Toilet access requires consideration of so many things: mental health, faith, gender, sexuality, race, disability, class, homelessness, workplace and labour rights, fatness, age, parenting, and much more. Toilets need to be designed and used with creativity 1
diversity and openness, reflecting the bodies, identities and requirements of the people who use them. Toilets need to be better! This zine opens up conversations on many of these issues from lots of different people with different and sometimes contrasting perspectives - we’ve been so excited to see it take shape, and extremely thankful for the incredible contributions we were sent from all over the UK and Europe. The zine is also a small tribute to our friend, colleague and collaborator, Lisa Procter, who died in November 2017 (see pages 46-47). We are very thankful to our incredible illustrator and designer, Stacy Bias, who has created a zine that we know Lisa would have loved. Charlotte and Jen aroundthetoilet.com
Drawing by Katja Filovski
As someone with a... , i do the usual plotting of journeys, to ensure I can always access a loo. I guard my radar key jealously. That makes places such as st pancras train station in london particularly tricky, as the queue to the ladies' loo is legendary. The disabled loo is a non radar key one, thus meaning it's constantly filled with a queue of non disabled people, often with children, needing the loo. It would take a very very brave me and a desperate situation for me to demand to queue barge, and I feel I've enough daily fights in my daily life with MS already, than to invite another. Why am I put in the position that I need to get shirty?!
lock to a radar key one, but they have
refused, saying that would mean international disabled travellers would not be able to access the loo. I've raised this with the station on a I'm not sure of the rights and wrongs here, as I can sort of number of occasions, pleading see the sense in what they are saying, but know that this means with them to change the desperate disabled people needing the loo are again marginalised and may choose not to run the gauntlet of loo free travel, and stay at home again rather than risk a damp and humiliating journey... Of course, the solution would be adequate female loos, or some additional unisex loos, thus meaning the disabled loo could be used for that purpose, with a radar key kept by the station staff, perhaps? I'll keep my fingers and bladder crossed until that moment!
- Mags Lewis 2
Changing Places, Change Lives ‘Champagne’, ‘caviar’ and ‘chocolate’…… there are some words in the English language that evoke images of glamour, pleasure and indulgence – and some that don’t, like ‘ironing’, ‘parking-ticket’ and ‘piles’ (but that’s enough about our weekend….) Another of these is the phrase ‘public toilet’. I mean who wants to think about some grubby, cold, echoing, ceramic cave with mucky soap, no bog roll, smelling of stale urine and adorned with muddy footprints? (Sorry local councils – I know they’re not all like that but you see our point) 2
Yet these ordinary, mundane, sometimes unpleasant experiences are a more common part of most of our lives than the sophisticated treats we like to think about. And for some people, having the right public toilet provision is the difference between enjoying all that Derbyshire and the Peak District has to offer and not going out at all.
toilets are boring
, toilets aren’t Okay: fun and you have better things to do with your time than read about them: like unblocking the sink – but bear with us. For some people a standard toilet, even a disabled toilet, doesn’t meet their needs. People who are unable to weight-bear, people with a learning disability or those with continence problems need something more. We speak from experience, both having a child who needs additional provision. ‘Baby changing’ facilities and the back seats of cars are soon out-grown and, as we discovered, the only alternatives are to stay at home or to change those we care for on a public toilet floor: something which is unpleasant, unhygienic, undignified and surely unacceptable in the 21st century? 3
But there is a solution: a Changing Places toilet is a large, hygienic space with a height-adjustable changing bench, a hoist, a loo and a sink. Thanks to local campaigning there are now a number of these toilets across Derbyshire plus a mobile Changing Place unit available to hire from Derbyshire County Council. There are also over 600 Changing Places nationwide. Changing Places are not just toilets: they
are the key to a world of opportunity for some of the most vulnerable and deserving people in our community. What matters now is that more people are made 6
(To find out more about Changing Places visit www.accesiblederbyshire.org, www.derbyshire.gov.uk/changingplaces or
aware of the need for them, that more are provided and that the people who do need them have the knowledge and confidence to get out there and use them. So now you’ve read this article, tell everyone! If you are a decision-maker or planner for one of our councils make Changing Places happen! If you are a local business go the extra mile and provide one of these special facilities in addition to a standard accessible toilet: don’t just settle for ‘bog standard’ and if you are the parent or carer of someone who needs to be changed when they are out then Changing Places are for YOU and the person you care for so USE THEM. Changing Places change lives! (Okay, now you can unblock the sink)
- Gillian Scotford and Jane Carver
Changing Places, and does not have the crucial facilities of a Changing Places bathroom (changing bed and hoist).
This weekend I visited Cafe Rouge Norwich Chapelfield for a pre-theatre dinner. However my aim now is to describe and review their accessible toilet. This is by no means a ‘perfect’ accessible loo, however it is one I get slightly excited about and I am more than willing to visit! (You wouldn’t believe how exciting toilets can become, it can be like grasping some limited edition find!). Unlike many loos built purposefully to be wheelchair accessible, this one does not feel like an afterthought. It’s classy decor and fresh clean experience is something many disabled loos lack. Often looking very clinical yet slightly grubby I feel majority of accessible toilets are sub-standard. Yet Cafe Rouge appear to have taken as much care, if not more so in this toilet than the ‘regular’ ladies loos (according to my able bodied friends!). Although in my opinion this toilet is moderately large (I can fit with another human and turn my wheelchair around) it is not large enough to be considered as a 5
Now being realistic, every single cafe and restaurant is not going to provide a (A third bin, just inside the door) Changing Place. But this particular Cafe Rouge is part of a larger complex, Intu Chapelfield Shopping Centre. In my opinion they could quite easily offer this facility. (Their current accessible loos are not something to be proud of, but I’ll get to that at a later date!). Although the door to this loo is situated in the far corner of the restaurant, there is reasonably adequate space to navigate the tables and other diners. The large red door has some weight to it however moves pretty smoothly, (I can’t open doors myself) so I don’t think it would be hugely difficult for people with some mobility.
(Red Accessible toilet door in the distance)
As soon as entering I notice that the emergency alarm cord is tied up to a hand rail behind the loo…. I know these cords can get in the way and be easily set off by mistake, however the reason that they are there and on a long cord is so that somebody, fallen and lying on the floor can reach to call for help. So please never tie up an emergency alarm cord, and if you see one tied up, untie it!
As is the fashion with accessible toilets, this one has ample bins! (I know there are reasons). And these bins are always huge! This bathroom could handle these bins no problem, if the layout was different. But as often the case, these two big heavy bins were placed to the side of the toilet. You and I might wonder why this would be of issue….? Well there are people with some varying mobility limits that transfer themselves into the loo. To do this effectively some people need to place their wheelchair beside the toilet. This, as you can see is not easy with the ‘bin obstacle course’.
These are all such minor complaints that can be easily solved, and really don’t get thought about unless you are in that position yourself.
(Large bins beside the toilet)
The main things are in place, there are plenty of handrails that seem in useful places to me. The sink is at a low level, even though the soap and hand cream (that smell amazing!) are strangely high and out of reach to most people with wheels. For myself this accessible toilet is adequate, spacious, clean and most importantly not a complete afterthought. With the adjustment of the bins and untying of the emergency alarm cord I think Cafe Rouge Norwich Chapelfield have done a reasonably good job!
- Gemma Orton
Changing Places 0/10 Space 8/10 Cleanliness 9/10 Decor 9/10 Safety 6/10 Practicality 7/10 6
One, two, three, four, five I must do a toilet dive Six, seven, eight, nine, ten Now I have to go again
image credit: Craestor
Title: Women are People Description: Botticelliâ€™s Venus taking a dump. We could give a shit about tabooing womenâ€™s normal body functions. 7
Why do you have to go? I have IBS you know Loos for people such as me Give us all equality - Gill Kemp
- Sarah Smizz 8
Putting Pen to (Toilet) Paper Toilet roll takes its place as one of the most mundane objects you can imagine and yet it does vital social and cultural work.
When did you last think about toilet roll? When did you last give toilet tissue any serious consideration? Even when we buy toilet paper it’s probably price, brand, colour and perhaps texture that influences our decisions, not the job that toilet roll does as it intervenes between hand and faeces or urine, not the work it does as it accompanies the transport of our solid or liquid bodily waste down the toilet, round the s-bend and on its journey through sewer and pipe to, well, who knows or cares where? Somewhere far away from our clean bums and bodies, somewhere we don’t have to think about it, somewhere where the dirt, the waste, the filth, the smells, the moisture reside and can’t easily get back to us. The usual, normal and acceptable course of events is that toilet roll and the stuff it belongs with (shit, piss, vomit, snot) goes down the tube and away from us, never to be seen again.
Toilet roll is, at least in Western culture, a ubiquitous presence. It is everywhere (but worryingly nowhere at times!). It is in homes, schools, places of work, public institutions. Even in toilets we come across on walks in the countryside we expect toilet roll to be there. And in all of these places (apart from the home) we never stop to ask how it gets there or who puts it there. Perhaps that’s because we (that is, we who are ‘usual’, ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’) don’t want to taint our clean minds with thinking about those people who attend the toilet to provide the toilet roll - toilet attendants - because, surely, ‘they’ are not like ‘us’? If they were, how could they bear to do that job? Toilet roll is often only noticed in its absence. Imagine going to the toilet and finding that there is none. Have you, like us, had the experience of wanting a piss or a shit only to find there’s no toilet roll? 9
And you hang on, perhaps look for another toilet in increasing urgency, all the time holding it in and holding on, the discomfort growing in bowel and bladder until you feel queasy with the pain and fear that your body may let you down, that something may leak or pop out and your ‘clean person’ identity will be shot to hell: there may be a stain, a smell, an aura about you - and people will know. You will be unacceptable. Toilet roll takes its place as one of the most mundane objects you can imagine and yet it does vital social and cultural work. It gets us to the heart of some very social issues, such as: It helps classify bodies by separating the acceptable clean bodies from the filthy unclean ones; it provides a barrier between soft bums and hard porcelain, cold metal or splintery wood; It negotiates between the contaminating fear of germs and the impossible dream of purity; It blankets the noise of the plop, it absorbs the gush of the pee, and covers, conceals and smothers the contents; It pushes poo away, managing our disgust, and, sometimes, it pulls it back to our attention when the flushing fails; It might protect with its softness and ‘natural’ aloe vera, but it might also be abrasive, irritating and rub us up the wrong way; It makes us connect with those orifices in ways we don’t normally talk about in ‘polite company’; It highlights internal/ external bodily boundaries - that moment when ‘inside’ stuff gets to the ‘outside’ world; It circulates as a product of value: it is wrapped up and taken from home for use in public; it is kept in pockets and bags as a precious commodity; it is given to others in need; thrown over the cubicle stall it is a gift which is welcomed and appreciated.
Toilet paper is political; it is also economic, social and cultural. It makes moral points. Thinking about this makes it easy to see why puppies are so important in TV advertisements for toilet roll. Their soft, bouncy, playful and lovely little bodies are what we focus on, as they gambol together in sunlit, well-carpeted and clean rooms. Acceptable rooms. Rooms which nice (white, middle class) acceptable people live in. People with time, money, well-cut hair and nice clothes. Puppies are powerful decoys. They throw us off the scent, enable us to hide from the knowledge that our bodies are continually producing and evacuating shit, piss, vomit and snot. Puppies are a capitalist's dream, helping to paradoxically sustain and erase the function, purpose and work of toilet roll: the idea that our body’s products are filth and that filth can only be got rid of by buying more of this brand of toilet roll. This brand is soft and gentle, it comes with love from puppies, it will make you clean, normal and acceptable in decent society. Its underlying message is that this brand of toilet roll will shelter you from the hard, daily reality of having released the contents of your bladder and/or bowel and of managing the ‘soiled’ self. Next time you visit the toilet and feel that toilet tissue between your fingers, perhaps that’s a moment to get to grips with the politics of shit and piss.
- Carol A. Taylor and Lauren White 10
(Content Warning: Transphobia, eating disorders, vomiting.)
When I started at my workplace, I’d come out as a trans person but I was still using the male toilets for a while. I wasn’t confident enough to switch at the time but after about seven months of working there I decided it was time. I took that step because it was something that had been bothering me for a long time, and it was a step I felt I had to take. It was a big day for me. About three weeks later I got a call out for a little talk and was told that somebody had complained about me doing that. It felt really – my friend has a word, ‘tranxiety’ that they use to describe this feeling – and it feels like being kicked in the stomach. It’s a horrible feeling. Something that you know intrinsically has been bothering you for years, so taking necessary steps, and then being told that what you’re doing is wrong and that people are complaining about you doing what you need to do on a daily basis. It’s pretty galling. But I felt I had to stand my ground with that, so I carried on the way I was and a week later, despite providing as much evidence as I could, I ended up losing my job. I’d been a member of a Union which is focused around resolving disputes through direct action, so about a week later myself and a bunch of my Union mates got a meeting together and we planned a picket of the workplace a few days later. And it snowed that day! So my best friend and I were marching to my ex-workplace in the snow, carrying placards and toilet rolls and things, and all the buses got cancelled and it was a bit of a
mess. But there were loads of people there when we got there and over the course of the day there must have been 40 or 50 people there in support, which was massively surprising and impressive and it felt really good. I didn’t think that was possible but it happened. If this was just an issue for me personally I might not have bothered. I would have just retreated and sulked for a while but this was a really important issue. I’d been punished for being trans. There was no other way around it and trans people go through this kind of bullshit all the time. It’s something that people live with daily and I felt that I had to make a big deal of this. I had to make it visible and colourful and actually change something so things would be more OK for people in the future. As a result of this picket, which got an awful lot of support, we put the company on the back foot in the negotiations. I had a few Union reps with me and a lot of quite intense meetings with HR and eventually after about three months I got my job back. I’ve been toilet-policed in a lot of places outside of work as well. I find it quite difficult to go in public toilets a lot of the time and I have a lot of anxiety issues surrounding this. Sometimes it happens from security staff in pubs, which is really annoying and I wish I could just explain to people what’s going on. I’ve been turfed out of toilets more than once outside work and it’s humiliating. Whenever I have to use the toilet I feel like I'm examining myself, checking how I’m presenting myself, whether I feel feminine 12
enough to go in the women’s toilets and I end up tying myself in knots with it. Sometimes I just don’t feel that I can go in; I’ll leave or go somewhere else. And there isn’t always anywhere else to go. Toilets are a political issue. People just want to go about their business and they need to use the toilet. That’s a thing that everybody needs to do every day and because of a lot of ingrained transphobia, some people take issue with that. Whether they're harassing people in toilets or sacking them or getting them in trouble with the police, it happens so it’s a political issue. There doesn’t seem to be anything in civil law or criminal law about who can use which bathroom in the UK - it’s not a law, it's a social convention that’s just assumed to be a rule everywhere and it’s a rule 13
that’s used to punish people. I’ve been punished because of that social convention. It's not something that seems to come to the fore until someone ‘transgresses’, which shocks and surprises a lot of people for no good reason that I can think of. Ultimately what you’re looking at on a toilet door is a few geometric shapes which are meant to encompass two halves of the population and the only real difference is a triangle and a few lines in a different place. This is a social standard which means that people can be vilified and punished and potentially get in an awful lot of trouble for doing perfectly innocent things like going to the toilet. I know there’s been a few attempts to design gender neutral signage with things like a figure with one leg out to the side and half a skirt and I always find those things really crude and unnecessary. Just a picture of what’s in there, and - I know I’m not the first person to say this - but just a picture of a toilet would be really, really useful. Just indicating that the room has a toilet in would be a good start.
- Keira James
Drawing by Katja Filovski
Drawing by Katja Filovski
Having incontinence and the problem with public toilets The accessibility of public toilets This article looks at the availability of public toilets and how this impacts on different groups in society. This wasn’t an issue I gave much thought to until I developed continence problems a few years ago. But since then knowing where the nearest toilets are, whenever I leave the house, is a priority. This is also a personal account of my experiences. Introduction Although ‘going to the toilet’ is a mundane task that few individuals give a second thought to, it remains a subject that is simply not discussed in ‘polite society’. In the modern world it is also a behaviour that is now done in private, with the result that toilets have largely become ‘invisible’ within the public sphere. Over the last twenty-years the number of public toilets has decreased significantly in Britain, and those that remain are often in a poor state or have restricted opening hours. The running down of these vital public amenities is a scandal and should have received the same level of attention as the closure of public libraries. But due to the stigma associated with toilets this has not been the case, although there are signs that this may be changing. In terms of how this lack of access to adequate toilet facilities affects different groups, Age UK, a charity championing the needs of older people, sees this as discriminatory, because people tend to need to use the toilet more frequently and urgently when they get older.The charity reports that this has resulted in many individuals effectively becoming housebound. The lack of access to public toilets also affects many other groups in society, 17
with disability organisations and groups championing the needs of pregnant people and new parents, also raising concerns. And while there have been attempts to address this, with initiatives that encourage shops and restaurants to allow non-patrons to use their facilities, this has only been partially successful with many individuals feeling embarrassed about going into shops just to use their facilities. Toilet access problems I – public transport Travelling by public transport around the UK can be a real pain, particularly in relation to the lack of adequate toilet facilities, which can make journeys much more difficult for those with continence problems. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to use facilities only to find them locked. And although inconvenient for those that are able to ‘hold on’, for those of us in the other camp (such as parents with young children, the elderly and individuals with disabilities) this can be an absolute nightmare. And I admit that on more than one occasion I have had ‘accidents’ as a result of toilets being closed, a completely avoidable indignity. Toilets on trains can be just as problematic, with the so-called ‘hi-tech’ toilets on many modern high-speed trains being prone to regular breakdowns. In addition, overcrowding and passengers having to stand in the aisles and corridors can also make accessibility to the toilet facilities a real problem. Toilet access problems II – workplace difficulties Another issue that has been highlighted in recent years is the issue of toilet use during work time. For example, nursing organisations have reported how their members are risking their own bladder health, because they are so busy at work that they often don’t get a chance to visit
the bathroom for many hours. In addition, a number of companies have been criticised for monitoring the number of ‘comfort breaks’ taken by employees. I have even witnessed this first hand myself, when I worked as a temp in a call centre, and one of the line managers criticised a female colleague for going to the toilet too often. Toilet access problems III – using ‘disabled toilets’ Although I manage my condition well, I still have occasional ‘accidents’ and need to change. In this situation, I usually try and find a disabled toilet because they are generally cleaner, more private and larger in size, and also have bins to dispose of any products. Since incontinence is a recognised disability, this is something that I am entitled to do. However, this can be problematic for an individual like myself who appears on the surface not to have a ‘disability’, and I have lost count of the number of times I have been given disapproving looks. And on a couple of occasions I have even been challenged for using the facilities, and then felt under pressure to explain why I had made use of them. Unfortunately, public perceptions and the signage (an individual in a wheelchair), makes this more difficult for individuals like myself who have so-called ‘invisible medical conditions’. But attempts are being made to address this issue, with some supermarket chains in the UK changing the signage on their ‘disabled toilets’, to better reflect the wide range of people that need to use these facilities.
Toilet access problems IV – toilets in healthcare settings Unfortunately, some of the worst toilets I’ve ever come across in terms of neglect and cleanliness have been found in hospitals. While another problem relates to the difficulty of trying to locate the toilet facilities in large and labyrinth like hospital buildings. This is a recognised problem and charities such as Age UK and Dementia UK have highlighted the need for clear signage for individuals with visual impairments, as well as those with cognitive difficulties. Even worse, has been the practice of not assisting patients to use the toilet, with older patients on geriatric wards often being encouraged to use commodes or wear continence products because of staff shortages. This is again something I have witnessed first hand, when I visited an elderly relative in hospital a few years ago. I have also been shocked by the negative attitudes of some staff to the issue of toileting. Toilet access problems V – Societal attitudes As a parent of a young child, emergency toilet stops are a fact of life when out shopping, and shop assistants are often more than happy to allow my son to use their private facilities. Yet when I’ve been caught in a similar situation and asked for help, I’ve not always had a positive response. As a result, I now carry a card given to me by a medical charity, which explains my urgent need to use the bathroom. I have also been out and about with elderly relatives and my partner when she was pregnant, and they also had no problem gaining access when they were ‘caught short’ while out shopping. The public perception of those most likely to have continence difficulties clearly does not include middle-aged men, yet health statistics show that 19
incontinence can affect anyone, and this includes many younger people. Summary The above issues are neatly encapsulated in the following story. As a family, we recently visited a local town centre and were surprised to see a sign saying that there were no public toilets available, but you could use those in the town hall, which were open Monday to Friday, 9 until 5. What you were meant to do outside those hours was anyone’s guess! Anyway, our son was ‘caught short’ and we decided to go into the local library and ask if we could use the staff toilets. And although the library assistant was helpful, she said ‘as long as it wasn’t an adult who needed to go’. Clearly many physical and cultural barriers still exist and until these are challenged toilet access in the UK is unlikely to improve.
- Christopher C
I went to Waitrose in Cambridge and as I am disabled I use the disabled toilets. I was touched by the note on the door saying "not all disability is visible", it was the first time that I found a note explaining invisible disability. - Dahlia
Naidex Portaloo Review
Let me fill you in on what I can only describe as one of my best bathroom experiences ever. Within the main exhibition hall at The NEC Birmingham during the Naidex show I stumbled across a row of accessible porta loos. I’ve used many a porta loo in my time but never have I seen any like these. The first three of these accessible porta loos were large enough to accommodate Row of accessible porta loos my needs, roughly the size of most standard accessible toilets. There would be enough space for wheels and PA, however I doubt many would have enough turning space so would have to exit in reverse. Raised off the ground with a long gently angled non-slip ramp they are easy to access. The doors not light but swing very easily it shouldn’t be too much effort for somebody with some upper body strength. They had all your usual suspects, toilet, handrails, overhanging sink, bins (two, which is pretty good going for an accessible loo, they’re usually filled with bins!) and a mirror. There was an emergency cord hanging freely however it wasn’t floor length as you can see from my photos. If someone had little movement they may not be able to reach up high enough to pull for help. The handrails were well situated for somebody to transfer or stand, there was space to transfer from the right hand side of the toilet, but not the left. Entrance to accessible porta loo via non-slip ramp
Overall the best accessible porta loo I have ever come across. Well that was until I saw the fourth bathroom, which I have aptly named the porta-hoist-a-loo! In fact a Changing Place accessible porta loo. The largest porta loo and possibly the largest accessible loo of any kind I have come across. Big enough to swing a wheelchair!
Good handrail positions. Emergency cord hanging short above one of the bins 20
Plenty of turning space, room for at least two PAs. Kitted out with everything most people with disabilities would need, it had a hoist, height adjustable bed, raised toilet, full length mirror, workspace, two sinks (one overhanging, one built in) and plenty of bins! There was a sling however you were advised to use with risk, and preferably supply your own. I think most people that require one would rather use their own anyway, I would. The emergency cord was hanging freely to the floor. The only downside with this porta-hoist-a-loo I would say was the decor. Looking a little tired and dated, one cupboard door was hanging off, it could do with freshening up with some new paint and maybe modernising the furniture. But this is such a small negative. Although it’s nice to feel glamorous while using the loo, it’s a start to actually find a brilliantly usable loo! So I’ll leave it there for now. I see no reason why both these styles of toilets can’t be standard Spacious Changing Place porta loo at all outdoor events where other toilets are supplied. I don’t see why this porta-hoist-a-loo can’t be placed more permanently in towns and cities where there isn’t a Changing Place within reasonable distance. Having a wee easily and conveniently can change somebody’s life more than most people realise. Full length mirror. Emergency cord hanging freely to the floor
- Gemma Orton
Changing Places 8/10 Space 9/10 Cleanliness 8/10 Decor 6/10 Safety 8/10 Practicality 9/10
The Mobile Sector - Delivering Dignity comfort of my own loo is fraught with anxiety. Toilet location planning is essential. How much more difficult must it be for mobile workers – with or without IBS – who have very limited access to toilets every working day. Lorry drivers are a case in point. Nearly everything we buy has travelled by lorry at some point; we are reliant on their efforts and yet most of us remain unaware how they have to manage their toilet breaks during their working day.
Groceries arriving at our door or an eagerly awaited purchase from Ebay are fast becoming parts of our everyday life. At some point in time, some of us may also call upon the help of the emergency services – fire brigade, ambulance personnel, police officers or breakdown engineers. Older relatives may be reliant on the support of visiting carers, whilst others of us find buses, trains and taxis a real benefit to getting about. But how many of us actually think about what the conditions are like for these mobile workers, who play such a vital role in our life? I certainly didn’t until I overheard two women drivers discussing how difficult it was to find a toilet when they were out and about. Hearing about their problems encouraged me to investigate further and so I founded Truckers’ Toilets UK on Facebook to seek out views. It was a revelation! I have IBS and any activity that takes me away from the
By law, lorry drivers have to take rest breaks after a certain number of driving hours which means they need to find somewhere to park that can accommodate the size and weight of their vehicle. Not all delivery routes are via motorways and available facilities on any road routes are few and far between. Laybys are a popular choice by default for rest breaks on non-motorway routes, but how many laybys have toilets? Virtually none. Which leaves drivers with a dilemma: should they use the layby as a loo or ‘hold on’? There isn’t really a choice, is there? So yes, many do use laybys as a loo although some resort to the ‘bucket and chuck it’ method. But how ever discreet they are, drivers run the risk of being fined if they are caught in the act. Awful, isn’t it? Certain councils actually punish drivers for using the roadside as a loo even though the council has not provided any facilities. Is this a sign of a caring council which so many claim to be? Presumably by 22
instigating fines they hope to encourage drivers to move elsewhere to avoid the costs of cleaning up; never mind the effect on the drivers’ health. Nimbyism at its best.
drivers the use of their loos. The main reason given ismisuse of the facilities. Having your toilets wrecked must be awful and incredibly frustrating if the actions
But why don’t drivers use the loos at the companies they visit? Apart from the long distances between ‘pick ups and drops’ it would seem an obvious solution. However, in spite of the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive which clearly states that drivers should be provided with toilet access, some companies REFUSE
are consistently repeated, but it’s only a minority of drivers who stoop so low, yet it results in the majority, who do know how to use a toilet properly, being penalised. Is this right?
So how does the lack of toilets affect the drivers? It’s
not surprising to learn that the absence of facilities is contributing to a UK driver shortage. Would you work for a company where you can’t guarantee access to a toilet during your working day? What if you’re a woman in the early stages of pregnancy or have your period? How do you cope? Some drivers have to contend with ‘hidden’ disabilities such as IBS and suddenly find themselves in need of a loo. What then? The scarcity of toilet facilities puts the health of all of our mobile workers at risk. ‘Holding on’ can damage the bladder and bowel and encourage urinary tract infections, kidney problems and other unpleasant conditions. Trying to find a toilet whilst driving affects concentration, a highly dangerous situation not only to the person in need but to other unsuspecting road users. Even if a toilet is available there may not be suitable parking alongside it. Drivers of HGV vehicles require space, surfaces that can withstand the lorry’s weight and vehicle security. Bus drivers and train drivers can’t just stop and dive into a loo either – assuming they can find one! A UK bus driver was sacked when he stopped his bus to use a toilet, and last year the lack of toilet facilities in Wandsworth led to protests by bus drivers. Taxi drivers may have to queue for a customer for long periods of time and drive for considerable distances without having access to a loo. To add to the difficulties of mobile workers, toilets in our towns and cities are closing at a rapid rate as there is no legal obligation on councils to provide them. This is what the two women drivers I mentioned earlier had
discovered. Where toilets are still available, drivers find there is a lack of parking spaces, a preponderance of double yellow lines and few facilities open at night. If we want our goods delivered and services provided then we need to look after the drivers. The government has said it will cut the business rates on public toilet buildings, but at the time of writing nothing has happened. Requests to ministers to take action on the lack of toilet facilities fall on deaf ears and no one is willing to take responsibility. Even the unions and driver organisations seem reticent. Truckers’ Toilets UK – and Public Toilets UK – are working hard to redress the inequality of provision between office-based workers and the mobile sector and we are determined to win. Drivers are delivering our goods; shouldn’t dignity and respect be delivered to them in return?
- Gill Kemp
Placard: Keira James 24
Down that narrow aisle is the bane of my existence as a fat airline passenger.
THE AIRPLANE TOILET! For a long time, I wouldn’t fly at all because I wasn’t sure I’d fit. Somehow hurtling through the air at 536mph with a dangerously full bladder seemed the wrong moment to find out. I fit but only just. I couldn’t get my legs apart once I’d peed.
But then my best friend and I fell in love. After she’d just moved away to LONDON! I was gonna have to fly and I was gonna have to pee. There was no way around it. So, I tried.
I had to do some acrobatics to engage in proper hygiene.
2017 - Stacy Bias
I ultimately made it to London with my dignity intact -- & have since moved there permanently. I fly back to Portland, Oregon every year & I’m grateful each time that I fit well enough to make that possible. Not everyone has that privilege. I’m also keenly aware that I’m only one injury away from becoming too inflexible to do the required acrobatics -- or one capitalist space-saving decision away from no longer fitting.
Tips & Tools for Using Airplane Toilets While Fat The “Bottom Buddy” is a handy tool to extend your reach in tight situations & It’s available on Amazon.
There are also “Heavy Duty” liners in case of leakage when you’re tyring to hold on for landing on shorter flights.
Whatever you choose to do about using the toilet while fat - please remember to stay hydrated! Dehydration is a primary risk factor for DVT. STAY SAFE! And remember:
You deserve to fly just like everyone else! 2017 - Stacy Bias
When I first came to England When I first came to England, of course the toilet was a big problem because even in houses we had to use a big bottle - an empty two litre milk bottle - wash it and use it for the toilet. But it’s not comfortable because we have our little tap inside the toilet in Egypt. This was my experience and of course when I went out for the whole day and used public toilets in England, this was a big, big problem for me because the toilet wasn’t clean. At this time I wasn’t disabled so I used the ladies toilets, but of course it wasn’t completely like the home toilet, it’s not a good standard. But after that, when I became disabled and I had problems, I started to use the disabled toilet. It’s a little bit better because you can have the toilet and the sink and everything and I can use some tissue to wash myself, but it’s not like we use our traditional way of cleaning. But it’s OK. Now, because I have problems with my immune system and I can get diseases easily, I have to be careful about the toilet I use because I can catch any disease. This could put me in hospital. I put sanitiser on the toilet to make sure it’s germ free for a while, but it’s hard because I have to wash the toilet, clean it and put down this sanitiser to be able to use it. Next to the soap I was thinking they could put a sanitiser for people to use to wipe the toilet or something. This 27
would be nice. The toilets in Egypt have this little tap inside which is hygienic, it’s not like it can spread disease from one to another. It takes the germs away and there is nothing they can be stuck to. I said it would be lovely if I could have one in my house so I’ve done my plumbing and I’ve got something. My bath is next to the toilet. I made a diversion from the shower, like a small – it’s not a tap, it’s like something small. But this is a nice thing and of course I’ve got this little shower from Egypt, but there are some in B&Q and now I found it in Amazon - Amazon have it! It’s lovely! It’s very funny because I have a friend who lives in Dundee and we didn’t talk to each other for a while but she phoned me to ask about me and the first thing she tells me: ‘oh, do you know what we have now?’, I tell her ‘yes, what?’, ‘we have the tap inside the toilet. We managed to have it properly installed inside the toilet like we have it in Egypt’. But it was like, instead of ‘how are you? Are you OK?’ or anything, the main subject was the toilet: ‘we managed to convert an English toilet to an Egyptian toilet’. The lack of toilets doesn’t stop me from going out
because I like the countryside and I like to go out and discover new little villages or nature and have some fresh air. Every week I go out in the countryside. For that I make sure that I don’t drink too much water to be able to have an hour’s drive without going to the toilet. I don’t drink too much water when I go out. I tend to minimise the amount of water I drink unless I’m feeling I need to. I know in the countryside the spots which are a little bit cleaner and which is not clean. I know my steps. Another problem is clean toilets inside hospitals because I stay inside hospitals and this is my suffering time, when I have to stay for more than two days inside the hospital. And it’s hard when I was on oxygen and I couldn’t breathe properly but I still have to clean the toilet each time. There is no proper facility, it’s like I used to tell them, even when I was on oxygen, ‘please take me to the shower, I need to wash myself, to be able to pray’ and it’s hard because the nurses have too much work to do and I couldn’t go by myself. They have to take me on a wheelchair to the shower which is a bit far away, to be able to wash myself properly under the shower so that I can be able to pray. This is hard, especially when I'm ill and I can’t really use the proper toilet. Sometimes I suffer. Sometimes I’m lucky if I find a toilet with a shower
inside. It’s very important in Islam to be clean after going to the toilet. This is one of the major important things we have to do: to perform ablution and pray. We can't make ablution unless we are clean after using the toilet. It’s not like we use it as something extra or we want to be different than the European people or the non-Muslim people around us. This is part of our ritual of Islam, we have to be spotless clean after using the toilet. I tell the nurse that this is what I do and always tell them ‘please do something for the people who come here’ because if Sheffield is a multifaith and multicultural place, and they accept other people’s faiths, then they should also know the needs of other people’s faiths. My sister went to Finland and in all their public toilets they have a bidet with a little shower inside, all the public toilets have that. It would be lovely if they could consider the needs of others here, especially when we go to hotels, hospitals or outside for the day, and we need to be able to use facilities which are suitable.
- Dahlia Tayel-Brown 28
NO HOPE OF RESCUE
No Hope of Rescue is an ongoing project by disabled artist Ju Gosling aka ju90, who has been photographing the floor alarm systems in so-called accessible public toilets for many years. Her collection of dozens of images of alarm cords that have been tucked behind pipes, knotted to shorten them or simply cut off altogether highlights the fact that emergency systems are commonly illusory, and are often sabotaged by human interference. 29
No Hope of Rescue is currently available online at http://www.ju90.co.uk/NH/index.html but Ju is working on a montage printed on metal which will be covered by a slashed 'safety net' made of red alarm cord*.
You can find out more about Ju and her artistic practice at www.ju90.co.uk * If you know anyone who would like to commission an edition of the print version, all profits will go to the Khadija Saye Memorial Fund, founded by David Lammy MP to support young artists following Khadija's death in Grenfell Tower.
- Ju Gosling
The Toilet Trail A week in the life of a loo seeker. DAY 1 Had a hospital appointment today. No probs – or so I thought. I knew there would be loos there – it is a hospital after all AND a brand new one at that. It seems I spoke too soon! Had to use the accessible toilet as needed support rails and to my horror I find the loo roll is just out of reach! Managed to stretch just that bit further thankfully – but painfully – and dignity is restored. Decided my next job should be a contortionist. [Wrote to the manager but received no reply!]
DAY 2 Fancied a bit of shopping so went to a large department store which I know has customer toilets. Yep! There were certainly signs to them but oh dear! they’re upstairs. Good choice of lift, stairs or escalator though – but would I make it in time? Used the escalator and noted loos are near the café in the distance. Battled my way through the latest fashions and the outer door to the toilets and made it in time!
DAY 3 Oh crumbs, my library books are due back. There’s a toilet at the library so all will be well. Unfortunately I was suddenly ‘in need’. Heck! The loo door was locked and you have to ask at the desk for a key and the librarian was busy – no RADAR facility. Forgot about the books and headed off as quickly as possible to the large supermarket across the way. Once again they’re at the furthest point from the door but luckily once again I made it! Amazed at how fast I can move when need strikes; it hurt but it was a question of pain or stain!!!
DAY 4 A friend asked me to collect her offspring from school. There are no toilets in her town so I don’t drink anything from late morning to pick up time. Trip successful but I was gasping for a cup of tea by the time I got home. Thankfully it wasn’t a hot day.
DAY 5 Had a meeting involving a train journey today. It’s a 2 hour trip so I made sure I got a seat near the loo – luckily the seats in this spot are not usually the prime choice! Arrived at my destination and thought I ought to visit the loo before finding a taxi – not sure how long the drive to the venue will be. Well, the good news is that the toilets on the platform were free. The bad news is that they were out of order with the usual trite notice apologising for the inconvenience. Ha! Ha! It was crossed legs time! DAY 6 Invited by a friend to a school concert. Decided to go to keep her company. Not sure how long the performance lasts so went to visit the accessible toilet nearby. Opened door – and couldn’t see a thing. It wasn’t just dark it was pitch black. Felt for the light switch; couldn’t find it. Thought it might be a toilet where the light comes on when you shut the door. Fatal mistake. Not a glimmer of light. I tried to open the door but couldn’t unlock it or pull it open. What on earth do I do? I put dignity to one side and hammered on the door and yelled until a passing soul heard my cries and I’m released. Quivering I joined the queue for the Ladies and used the cubicle walls for leverage. Painful but safe! Was told later that the light switch was outside the door!!!
DAY 7 Friends invited me on a trip to the seaside. Weather looked good. Are there toilets en route? I asked. Bound to be, they replied. Hmm. Are there toilets at the beach? I enquired. Of course, they said, don’t worry. Have they actually checked this? No, they haven’t. I did a quick Google search. They’re closed ‘due to budget cuts and vandalism’. Thanks, but daren’t risk it, I said sadly. Be alright, they replied, oblivious to the implications I’ve pointed out many times before. Do come. I shook my head and headed for my favourite chair and cried.
- Gill Kemp
Toilet Code The unwritten rule of public toilets seems to be THOU SHALT NOT POOP. Anytime someone, well a woman as I use the “female” toilets, dares to use the toilet to defecate, there will be loud shouts of “oh my god the stink” and “that's disgusting”. Well lately I've had to learn to not only go against the code but to fold it up, stamp it down the toilet and flush it away to wherever poop goes. I have an undiagnosed stomach issue. I've been under an NHS consultant about it for a while, had a colonoscopy, and am now facing another long wait for my next test and consultation (I feel like at this rate it will take a decade to get a diagnosis but hey). The colonoscopy ended up taking months due to my chronic reactions to the bowel prep, failed attempts at cleansing my bowel with an enema and general poop related misery. Whilst we are on the subject, it's real hard to care about the toilet code, and dignity, when you've just had an enema and a nurse is listening to you “go” because you've already fainted twice. This undiagnosed thing is kind of ruining my life as I can't really go outside. I've been more or less housebound for quite a bit now, and it's made my mental health worse as a result. I can't go out because of toilets. Or the lack thereof. Or the issue of access to. Whatever it is that's going on with me means I have to go instantly, there's no warning or grace period. For a while I tried my hardest to beat it, to fight it, thinking ok, maybe it's all mental health related and if I try hard enough to be calm 33
my stomach will quit it. Well, nope. No such luck. In the early part of this year, every time I attempted to go out into the big bad world, whether to a bowling alley, or a tesco express, I'd be caught out. I'd be the casper-faced girl running to the nearest loos as fast as her legs would carry her. I'd be the girl crying asking how she is going to get home because how is a bus or cab possible when you can't. Stop. Going. I've begged to use the disabled toilet at a train station, late at night when my last train could well have been choo-chooing away on the platform. I've been on a train using the fairly awful toilet whilst bobbing around and wondering if I have managed to lock the door by pressing the little weird button light. Public toilets seem to be in serious decline. A lot of shops/cafes have codes now, and to get the code you have to purchase something. Which means being able to stand in a queue, pay and not faint / cry / mess yourself at the same time. The toilets that remain can be seriously questionable. People will say “oh my god, how can you use that loo? It's vile. I'm ‘too OCD’ to use that. There's blood up the walls! There's poo on the seat!” And yeah, in an ideal world it would be ace to use a clean toilet that comes complete with toilet roll and soap to wash your damn hands afterwards. But when your body is screaming at you and you literally cannot wait another second and the blood is all pounding around your body and you are trying to not just squat in the street or a bush or on the floor, yeah. Toilet cleanliness becomes about as relevant as a fax machine for keeping up a tumblr. Just, not.
I've just been given some sachets to bind bile to my poop or some other body thing I'm going to try and not obsess about because of health anxiety (step away from the side effects leaflet right now). Hopefully these will work better than the loperamide pills that stop you going then give you serious belly ache and wind. Wow this is a sexy piece of writing. Hopefully I will be able to walk down the street, like other people I see around me, these curious creatures that seem able to talk and laugh and shop without all their attention and energy focused solely on their bowels. Hopefully I can let go of the toilet maps in my head â€“ where the nearest is, how long until I get there, that I construct of every place I go.
Toilets to me are a blessing and a curse. The most important place. The place I could live in because it would save a ton of energy running to one. Maybe one day the â€œcodeâ€? will be just like the fax machine. Biting the dust under all the girls pooping and accepting their own bodily functions. - Kimberley Booth
representing gender neutrality (transculturally)
It’s fantastic to see more and more gender-neutral (or gender-inclusive) toilets showing up as awareness rises of the need to make peeing a safe experience for all. However, care must be taken when selecting a sign to put on the door. These signs can be problematic in a number of ways,so it’s good to think about the issues 35
introduced by different forms of symbolic and iconic (visual) representation, rather than just opting for whatever seems popular on a Google search. Whilst put up with great intentions, many gender-neutral toilet signs are counter-productive. They can undermine what they’re trying to communicate, or
create new barriers based on culture and/or linguistic knowledge (or repertoire). There are (at least) two key factors: * communicating neutrality/inclusivity right (rather than “either of two options”); * minimising the amount of cultural and linguistic knowledge required to understand the meaning. At Everyday Cissexism (@CissexismDaily) we conducted a poll via Twitter. I put together a graphic with four common and alternative options (the image at the beginning of the article)1 then we asked which of the four was preferable via a poll (results below). The poll was totally loaded (based on sound sociopolitical reasoning, of course), but the results and the discussion on both tweets are clear and conclusive: people hate the half one, half the other or “both” options and prefer visual reference to gender to be taken out altogether, favouring either a toilet or a toilet and/or urinal corresponding to what’s inside the room. I’ll cover some of the reasons why as I discuss these and other options below.
1: Half one, half the other or “both” Advice: avoid The issue here is that these do not visually represent neutrality/inclusivity: they represent or at least evoke two genders. Having two distinct figures, typically read/understood in isolation to be representative of “female” and “male”, essentially re-articulates the binary. Splitting the two figures down the middle and sticking them together is problematic in the same way, but it can also – by association – lead to a highly problematic reading of non-binary people being half one, half the other. Whilst most non-binary people would probably get the intended message behind these signs, using them doesn’t provide confidence that those putting them up really get, or have thought about, what gender-neutral toilets are all about – or one of the key reasons why they’re necessary (non-binary people exist!). This option is represented by option A in the poll – see the image at the beginning of the article. 2: Trans symbol Advice: avoid This fails on two counts. Firstly, it’s not easy to work out what the symbol represents – you need to be told or introduced to it in the context of learning about trans stuff. If you’d never seen it before and didn’t know there was a trans symbol, it wouldn’t be obvious what it means. I doubt even the binary gender symbols (♀ and ♂) have a high level of awareness on a global level, and – unlike the body figures – they bear no relation to stereotypes of gendered presentation (they are symbolic, not iconic
or indexical), so you need cultural knowledge to successfully understand the message. However, even if you know what the symbol means, like the previous options it fails to convey neutrality/inclusivity. It actually conveys “toilet for trans people”, which is not really what most trans people are after! We don’t want separate toilets, we want neutral/inclusive toilets – toilets for everyone – as well as acceptance of trans women and trans men in female and male toilets respectively. This option is represented by option B in the poll – see the image at the beginning of the article. 3: “Toilet” written out or “WC” or “Unisex” Advice: avoid (or combine with symbol) This is quite a common sign for unintentionally gender-neutral toilets – where those putting up the sign haven’t actively tried to make their toilets accessible to people of any gender, but through shortage of space can only provide one toilet and have chosen to label it with a word, rather than two gender-coded body symbols. Unfortunately, both of these fail as transcultural communication. Yes, English is a very global language these days as a result of global power dynamics, colonialism and so on, and in context most people who speak little or no English could probably understand “Toilet”, but there will be exceptions so if we have a more culturally inclusive option we should use it. If someone who spoke no Greek encountered two doors, one labelled “Tουαλέτα” and the other “Προσωπικό”, would they work out that the first is a toilet and the second the staff room? Maybe, but not everyone would. “Unisex” and “WC” have similar linguistic limitations; the latter also requires knowledge that “WC” (which from my own observations is decreasingly common) means toilet (or water closet, and that this means toilet). 37
4: Toilet symbol Advice: consider This works great. It tells you that it’s a toilet by representing a toilet. Yes, toilet design isn’t universal, but it’s not far off and a toilet icon should have very high recognition levels among people likely to be looking for an indoor toilet. Crucially, it takes gender out of the equation altogether. There is no obvious way of representing gender neutrality/inclusivity using visual representation of the body without problematically remixing stereotypes and norms of gendered presentation, especially given that an unembellished, plain body would generally be read as “male” (see the article linked in the notes section for more on male as the default2), and a three-way distinction between female, male and non-binary would require some universal and essentialist notion of non-binary presentation. Essentially genderneutral toilets are about making someone’s gender not a factor that determines whether they can enter, much like age, class, race etc. We needn’t represent age, class and race neutrality/inclusivity by having different categorical icons or symbols representing various sub-divisions – the same applies for gender. It is gender neutral/inclusive by virtue of the fact that there is no reference to gender. This option is represented by option C in the poll – see the image at the beginning of the article. Note that this particular image is from a source who has a problematic history with regard to gender activism (the Storify article “The genderbread plagiarist” provides detail), so you might want to use an alternative toilet symbol.
5: Sit-down toilet and/or urinal symbols according to what’s inside Advice: consider This has all the benefits of the toilet symbol, but also makes clear what’s actually on the inside, particularly useful when previously female or male toilets have been neutralised on the outside but remain unchanged on the inside. Of course, gender isn’t a factor in whether people can use sit-down toilets but male toilets tend to have less of these. Male toilets also tend to have people using urinals, which may be an uncomfortable sight for people unaccustomed to this phenomenon, so indicating whether a room has urinals or not can help people avoid unpleasant situations. Additional note: it’s also very helpful to indicate whether menstrual hygiene bins are inside. Unfortunately as far as I know there’s no established symbol for this and so text may be the only option, rendering the transcultural communication barrier unavoidable. This option is represented by option D in the poll – see the image at the beginning of the article. The source is Bobbu on DeviantArt. Notes Many thanks to Kit Heyam for helping to make this article more accessible to a general audience! If you’re in a workplace or some other group of people who might benefit from trans awareness training, I highly recommend his services. See kitheyam.com for more details. 1 I don’t own the copyright to any of the constituent images used in the poll graphic; some are public domain, others at least widely used.
2 Further reading: [content warning: one potentially cisnormative statement regarding bodies by the author in an otherwise very trans-inclusive and trans-aware article; embedded sex-based images that are at least cisnormative, arguably transphobic, but with a warning right before; reference to sexual predaciousness/rape culture] the article “Go where? Sex, gender and toilets” from Sociological Images (thesocietypages.org/socimages) is very interesting, also covering femininity, masculinity, sex and sexuality, with plenty of commentary on trans inclusivity.
- Andy Law/Ynda
Sensory Musings of a Crohnie
The landscape of the rest room is one I am well traversed in. Not through particular fetish I hasten to add, but rather an unwanted but ever looming need. Having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) since teenage-hood and now occupying my mid-thirties, I have grown to appreciate an aesthetically pleasing whilst practical loo. From a frantic dash in the train station to a sullen slope in the footfall heavy university toilets; architectural (dis)prowess of lavatories can alleviate, or add to the existing gloom that so often accompanies a hasty evacuation. As such, I have established an internal ranking of toilet desirability, to which frequently only the finest of establishments occupy prime placing. Therefore, I ask - what distinguishes these earthly sanctuaries as suitable for the IBD’ed body, unlike their less successful sanitary peers? A well-established Crohnie- that is, a person diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease - utilises the bulk of their senses during a thorough toilet critique; including, but in no particular order- sound, sight, touch and, the risqué, but omnipresent smell. Sound – An important one. Presented with an unknown quantity i.e. faecal matter requesting departure, an immediate fear presents and resonates loudly in the IBD’ers mind, ‘exactly how much noise am I about to evoke upon my fellow, able-bodied loo dwellers?’. For repeatedly we are subject to looks of disgust and rude tuts from oblivious onlookers; mistaken for being in control of our battle-worn bodies. Avoidance of being judged unfairly or deemed different to others may well instigate the use of volume reduction techniques on our behalf, i.e. a well-timed barking cough or tense wait for the hand dryer to blow ceremoniously, allowing us to relax and release! Minus structural absorption, sound proofing or partitioning, the only other means to aid our anxiety could be music, a rare but pleasant treat. Yet, all too often the soothing sounds of a pan pipe flute do little to quell the violent force of an intestine attacked by its own immune system. Thus, seemingly the issue of embarrassing noise emission may rumble ever onwards Sight – Fleeting, darting eyes scanning for free loos are a tell-tale sign of a Crohnie in need. Toilet cleanliness is unquestionably key, but availability is a must, therefore provision of sufficient loos for venues is a basic need. The embarrassment of potentially having an accident whilst out is understandably mortifying and can restrict social participation. Suffering from a hidden illness means some IBD folk are reluctant to use disabled toilets for fear of disapproving, unknowing eyes. Yet, the right to use them is clear; our impairment + limited loo accessibility + urgency = a disability. A best practice disabled loo may envelop the new initiative garnering popularity in big organisations, door signs stating, “not all disabilities are visible”, publically signifying inclusivity of all conditions. For it may not only be the the IBD’er that needs guidance, but also bystanders whose ideals of disabled people are confounded by our seemingly healthy exteriors.. 39
Touch – From the texture of loo roll to quality of hand wash, our tactile senses are subject to differing forces on entering the lavatory. Upon tentatively pressing the door handle, containing dubious amounts of bacteria, we enter a world reliant upon cleaning schedules like no other. My mother, an unashamed germ-phobe, takes matters to the extreme; refusing to sit on toilet seats, instead hovering insistent that, “you don’t know who sat here before”’, such is the perceived threat of a porcelain pot. A well-stocked toilet roll dispenser gratifies any IBD’er, whereas an empty one instigates the unfortunate ‘next door beg’ whereby our lowly voice reaches out into the loo ether, seeking solace from a generous neighbour. Onwards, movement sensors upon sink tops quicken our hand washing, whilst new, ultra-powerful hand dryers finessed at a thorough dry, blast through the job in half the time. Touch it seems has been overtaken by technologies anticipating our sanitary need, with an efficiency unrivalled by the green paper towels of old. The final sense for scrutiny is smell, for what else are good faeces renowned for. The capacity of the intestine to hold copious amounts of pungent poo is one I am constantly amazed by, and boy... when our gut flora gets angry, we know about it. Good toilets work with us by covering the elimination of our ingested grub with blasts of tropical guava or supermarket BOGOFF cherry blossom. As such, the reassurance of an aromatic scent is a sensation to behold for the seasoned IBD’er. Indeed, my personal toilet top ten includes the sighting of a Jo Malone scented diffuser perched upon a well-polished sink in an upmarket hotel loo. Yet, why should it matter so much I wonder, when whiffs are ultimately a natural commodity for us all? Well, Crohnies tend to possess a talent for unexpected gassy bellows, with the obnoxious mist that follows crying, “that was me!” to our waiting audience. So, on behalf of my fellow gastrointestinal tribe, I urge facility providers to install that air freshener, to think of us, to tweak your toilet to be the best it can be. The extent to which toilets play a pertinent role in the life of anyone with a gut-related illness cannot be understated. These spaces form the backdrop to a large proportion of our time, with our senses further deprived or revived by their detailing. More than that, the attitudes of our communal loo users can impact us more than our physicality; the absence of a wheelchair does not make us healthy. So please use your sense, while we use our senses.
- Cherylyn Waite
Drawings by Katja Filovski
Around the World, Around the Toilet Going to the toilet is a subconscious action of human beings. Like breathing, some say. We can take this opportunity to question this – but it’s a challenge because toilet-use is a private matter, one subject that we do not often openly share with others. Research shows that 10-20% of people have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at any one time in the UK (IBS Network, 2017). IBS is a lifelong condition that affects the bowel and guts, with typical symptoms (but not limited to) of bloating, constipation, excessive flatulence and diarrhoea – all in which the severity of these may differ with each individual. Some may experience all symptoms, simultaneously. The condition varies, for example, I personally can go one week without a flare-up, then I will have a particularly severe attack which can sometimes mean I spend an hour…on the toilet. IBS, in many cases if not all, means that toilet facilities are of utmost importance to those who suffer from the condition. IBS does not always give a warning. A storm of pain and wind (literally) takes over the gut and a ticking time bomb approaches giving sometimes a matter of seconds to reach a toilet to do the everyday normal practice of releasing the ‘bad stuff’ from the body. It is only recently, as I have begun to understand more about it than I ever did, through years of living with the condition, and finding a group of others sharing it also in the workplace, that I can share some of the challenges IBS has thrown at me, including the accessibility and availability of toilets. Understanding that discussion of invisible illnesses, like IBS, mental health conditions etc. are now ‘socially’ and ‘medically’ acceptable in the eyes 41
of the public. But are they really? The other week I visited my favourite place, Meadowhall, a large indoor shopping centre in Sheffield. As someone with a guilty pleasure of shopping, I very much enjoy coming here. I’ve came here since being a baby. I’ve had some amazing memories here, each of which I am reminded of as I approach the jade dome that sits upon it. My mother used to bring me here and she would take me to the Early Learning Centre to buy a wild animal figure for jungle games. IBS is a bit like a lion – your gut roars with pain, but you are brave and strong to get through the pain and continue to enjoy life. You cannot cure IBS. And it is not easy. But I never, ever let it define me in a negative light or let it stop me from enjoying my life. Others will try, by all means. “Has she fell down that toilet?” laughed my hairdresser, when I had an unexpected flare-up when I was fifteen, and biting onto a towel in their toilets just a foot away from the salon so they couldn’t hear me scream in agony, as I felt like two pair of hands were playing tug of war with my gut. This was even before my formal diagnosis. “What the hell is wrong with me?” I thought. “I cannot go to the Doctors with this, what an embarrassment.” I had an attack when I was Meadowhall the other week. It often happens when I’m stressed or worried about something, but this particular day I was in in sheer ecstasy as I was in New Look to buy some
new wedges. I then felt my stomach start to shake. It was that moment I felt fear rush through my blood, further making my stomach shake. “Oh no”. I thought. “I’d better run to the toilet…I know I’ll get there in time if I don’t spend any more time in this shop.” I got a sprint on. To the toilets near Argos. They weren’t there. I stared around in horror as I saw the signs that they had been moved. I panicked. A massive clock, about 20 feet high, crashed down from the ceiling with a stereophonic ticker. It got louder as I went to find the relocated toilets. I found them. And I was fine. But I had no warning I needed the toilet just five minutes ago. And I enjoyed the rest of my afternoon. I still went to the Lanes, a section of Meadowhall at the other end of the centre, to look in the punk shop for ideas for my birthday. I rocked it out. I didn’t think if those toilets were out of order. IBS does not ruin my day. My guts feel ruined, I felt so tired, I needed to get a shower. But I had a great day because I’m enjoying myself. The toilets were also very clean and secure cubicles, that was a relief. I felt good. The ones in the restaurant Harvester are like royalty – you have your own cubicle, which in fact, it is literally a door into a small room so like your own toilet room, so very private, knowing people outside can’t hear you.
I think more money could be spent on better toilets. If you’re having a bad day, even if it is not necessarily a bowel problem, a toilet can be the most private place to revive, physically and mentally. Cleaner toilet facilities will improve the perception of society – you feel better using them. People with IBS are not disgusting, they just need privacy, and people to respect that, and accommodate it where possible. I’m not disgusting, I appreciate a good toilet. You might feel like you need to go round the world to find a good toilet. Do whatever it is in the world that makes it a better place for you. I was very dependent on a toilet in Meadowhall – but when I think about that day now, I think about the good times I’ve had, that day being one of them. I now can’t wait to wear my new wedges I bought with my girls on Saturday when we go out together.
Tackling the Negative Stigma Around Public Toilets More public toilets have opened across the UKtransportation network and toilets in stations are advertised when train operators have none on board. Certainly, many solutions are far from perfect but there is another problem: the psychological barrier to accessing public toilets and the negative stigma around them is as existent as ever. How do we combat involuntary ignorance?
Iâ€™d like to share an anecdote from my childhood to show how deep involuntary ignorance roots. My head is full of memories relating to long-distance car journeys across Europe and public toilets along the way. As a preschooler, I would be looking outside the car window to be less bored. But my actual attention would be drawn to the blue signs highlighting in white fonts how far we were away from the next laybys and the access to public toilets. If I had seen that there were no public toilets for many miles to come, I would tell my parents impatiently that I had to use the toilet at the closest layby. They always reacted in disbelief, always noting that I had just used the bathroom earlier. Sometimes, they asked me if stopping at disgusting public toilets was fun for me. Apparently, it never occurred to them that my body tried to manage a medical necessity. My family represents that part of society who find it difficult to adjust to a loved one who has an invisible disability that requires restrooms in close distance constantly. According to the national Phobic Society, nearly four million Britons suffer from toilet phobia- a condition based on varying degrees of fear around toilets. The phobia is only the tip of the iceberg in an 43
unaccommodating society in which many people feel toilet behaviour shouldnâ€™t be discussed outside your own home. As a result, the majority of society seems to misunderstand or ignore those with an urgent need to use public toilets. When I grew older, driving to caravan and motorhome shows became a frequent family weekend activity. While other children had loads of places to explore in the fancy and luxurious travel vehicles, I focused on the small door between kitchen and bed. It amazed me that vehicles could have proper functioning toilets on board which even looked better than the ones at home. I would enter each motorhome and walk straight up to the toilet to have a look at it. After a few of these shows, I was told not to become obsessed with motorhome toilets. It took a decade to understand that the toilet was a metaphor for feeling safe and that I hadnâ€™t built an obsessive relationship. When trying to combat stigma in the public, communicating this truth may be the only way to overcome psychological barriers. Toilets, and the norms and structures around them have to be discussed widely and more openly to decrease the negative stigma and support people who have to engage in the activity of toilet mapping due to medical need. These discussions can start at the bottom with people close to us but there is also a need for academia to undertake more research in these fields.
It can be nerve wracking to discuss oneâ€™s toilet behaviour in the open especially when we are looking for a public toilet that can be accessed right away. In such situations, I have come to the decision to think like this: Why should there be a barrier for me to use a public toilet when I am in urgent need just because of someone elseâ€™s discomfort around thinking and talking about toilet-use?
- Anne Steinhoff
Vector Image Courtesy Vecteezy.Com
CONTRIBUTORS Mags Lewis
Disability Spokeperson for the Green Party Magslewisgreen@gmail.com Twitter: @MagsLewisGreen
Gillian Scotford and Jane Carver
Founders, Accessible Derbyshire Twitter: @AccessibleDS // Web: accessiblederbyshire.org
Twitter: @gemmaorton // Web: wheelescapades.com www.facebook.com/wheelescapades
Instagram: @craestor // Tumblr: http://craestor.tumblr.com
Public Toilets UK and Truckersâ€™ Toilets UK Twitter: @atoileteer
Twitter: @smizz // Web: sarahsmizz.com
Carol A. Taylor and Lauren White Matt Evans
Twitter & Instagram: @10bearsart // Web: 10bearsart.co.uk
Keira James Katja Filovski
Twitter & Instagram: @fatfeistyfemme // Web: stacybias.net
Dahlia Tayel-Brown Ju Gosling
Instagram: @thataintnovulture https://www.facebook.com/kimberleybooth230
Andy Law/Ynda Jas
(they/them/their) Activist and PhD researcher in queer linguistics (Queen Mary University of London) Twitter: @andylaw31 // Web: andylaw.co
Second year BA Hons Education, Culture and Childhood student at the University of Sheffield Twitter: @spritneybeers
Undergraduate Student in Business & HR at Hallam University
Research Support Officer at the University of Liverpool and a Coeliac UK Food campaigner challenging views on restrooms and food in the workplace and at home. Twitter: @ane_ste
This zine is dedicated to the memory of our brilliant and much-missed friend and colleague, Dr Lisa Procter. Lisa was involved in the Around the Toilet project from the start and was integral to the planning and design of this zine. Lisaâ€™s work as a Lecturer in Childhood and Education and her training as an architect brought crucial elements to the larger project from which this zine stems: a deep-seated desire to make sure that the ways of seeing and voices of younger people were taken into account and an eye for detail and design in everything that she did. Lisa believed strongly in the need to rethink toilet spaces as part of the creation of a fairer and more accessible world, but she showed us all how the need for new and functional spaces wasnâ€™t at odds with creative and beautiful forms. She was confident in her methods and sure about the possibilities of creative collaboration, and she showed how academic work could transcend its dependence on words to involve other senses and ways of knowing. Her workshops were places of transformation, where corrugated cardboard, post-its and modelling clay became the materials for alternative designs and better worlds. She will be remembered for her creative intelligence and gentleness, her huge smile and inimitable style. - Emily Cuming, Jen Slater and Charlotte Jones 47
Welcome Quirky Bladder Changing Places, Change Lives Cafe Rouge Loo Review Botticelli’s Venus (illustration) Toilet Nursery Rhyme Smizz’s Drawings Putting Pen to (Toilet) Paper Indicator Bolt (illustration) Toilet Tranxiety Toilet Drawings Having incontinence and the problem with public toilets Raidex Loo Review The Mobile Sector - Delivering Dignity Airplane Comic When I First Came to England No Hope of Rescue Toilet Diary Toilet Code Toilet Worries: Representing Gender Neutrality Sensory Musings of a Chronie Around the World Tackling the Negative Stigma around Public Toilets
1 2 3-4 5-6 7 7 8 9-10 11 12-14 1, 15-16, 40 17-19
Tribute to Lisa Procter
20-21 22-24 25-26 27-28 29-30 31-32 33-34 35-38 39-40 41-42 43-44
CONTACT US Around the Toilet Project web: aroundthetoilet.com web: toilettoolkit.co.uk email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This zine is a collection of toilet stories and experiences, alongside musings, ideas and opinions about the varied – sometimes mundane, but...
Published on Jan 26, 2018
This zine is a collection of toilet stories and experiences, alongside musings, ideas and opinions about the varied – sometimes mundane, but...