Garth Harkness

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North Ward on Oldham Council Learn more

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Not every disability is visible

by Garth Harkness on 5 September, 2020

The Oldham Liberal Democrats are backing a national campaign to raise public awareness that not everyone who uses an accessible public toilet has a visible disability.  The campaign by the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK encourages venues with such toilets to install special signage with the logo ‘Not every disability is visible’.

Crompton Councillor Louie Hamblett, who is the Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, is raising this issue in a motion to the next meeting of the full Council (September 9). He said:  “This motion is timely.  The requirement to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport has started to raise public awareness that people can be exempted from their use because of a hidden disability.  Accessible toilets, often opened using a RADAR key, are also sometimes needed by people who have a hidden disability.  This campaign is around raising public awareness of that fact to help stop stigma and discrimination, and inappropriate challenges by staff, against those who have ‘invisible illnesses’, such as Crohn’s Disease.”

“The Oldham Liberal Democrats want the Council to ensure that the accessible toilets in our buildings all have this signage and that our onsite staff all receive appropriate training.  We would also like to see retailers and leisure outlets across our borough encouraged to do the same.”

The motion also calls on the Council to install a Changing Places toilet in any new large Council building that opens to the public, and for new and existing Changing Places toilets to be properly sign-posted.  The Government has legislated to make such toilets compulsory from next year.

Shaw Councillor Hazel Gloster, who is backing the motion, said:  “The new legal requirement to provide Changing Places toilets to enable people with invisible disabilities to use purpose-built facilities affording them proper privacy and dignity is very welcome and long overdue.  As a local authority with a duty to serve the public we have a responsibility to ensure that we properly plan for their provision in any of our new buildings.  It is completely unacceptable that people with severe disabilities must sometimes wait hours to be able to access an appropriate toilet that meets their needs”.

The motion to the full meeting of Oldham Council (September 9) reads:

Not every Disability is Visible

This Council notes that:

  • The charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK is encouraging venues providing accessible public toilets to install new signage.  This is to help stop stigma and discrimination towards people with ‘invisible illnesses’ such as Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • There have been instances nationally where such individuals using an accessible toilet have been accused by staff members of being ineligible to use them.
  • These signs have two standing figures and a wheelchair user with the words Accessible Toilet and the logo ‘Not every disability is visible’.
  • The Government has decided recently that large accessible toilets for severely disabled people – known as Changing Places – will be made compulsory for large new buildings, such as shopping centres, supermarkets, sports and arts venues, in England from 2021.

Council resolves to:

  • Ensure that accessible toilets on Council premises bear these signs.
  • Ask town and district centre retailers and leisure outlets to do likewise with their accessible public toilets.
  • Seek advice from the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK on the information and training we should provide to Council Staff members.  This is so they understand these illnesses and to prevent potential embarrassment for those who suffer with them.
  • Ensure that any Changing Places toilets in our buildings are properly signposted for visitors.
  • Ensure that the requirement to provide new Changing Place toilets is included within the Council’s future plans for new public buildings in the Borough.

Proposed by: Councillor Louie Hamblett          

Seconded by: Councillor Hazel Gloster         

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