Sue Tucker - Campaigning in North Devon
Sue Tucker has been campaigning for Changing Places in North Devon for the past three years. Initially a group of people got together but for the past couple of years Sue has been campaigning on her own.
Sue has written to lots of people who may benefit from a Changing Places facility to gain support and has written to lots of councillors in her area who are supportive but nothing has been agreed yet.
Sue says there is a real need for more Changing Places toilets in Devon but there is not a great deal of understanding. People need to be made aware of how difficult things are for people who need proper changing facilities. Sue was once asked to go to an appointment in Bristol at the hospital but was unable to attend as she couldn’t travel that far as there were no appropriate toilet facilities. Sue explained that the G.P told her to wear a pad but she argued back: Sue had an appointment in Exeter recently- she hasn’t been this far from home (about 1hr away) in 30 years because she needs to be near suitable toilet facilities and there aren’t any locally. Sue had to use the “Why should I? I am not incontinent - even if I did wear a pad I would need to change it and have somewhere to get changed.”
toilet provisions at the mobility centre which weren't great because she had to be hoisted in a communal area which isn’t private On a better note Sue was able to go into Exeter for the first time shopping with out having to be catheterised because there is now a changing places in the city centre!!! Sue was even able to have a cup of tea which is something she usually avoids because it increases chances of needing a toilet.
Sue has been campaigning for Changing Places toilets in large public buildings and said: ‘I attended a full planning meeting once when there were plans for a new college. I spoke for 3 minutes and argued my cause for Changing Places - that was nerve racking! I have never done anything like that before - there were a lot of people there.’
Sue supports the campaign because in her own words: ‘I can see what a difference it could make - to be able to go out for more than a few hours - for me I cant go out unless there is a suitable facility - I feel like I am a prisoner - imprisoned in my own home. It would be lovely to be able to go out freely - for me and for others’
Sue has put together a presentation on the need for Changing Places and has used water music for the background! She has written dozens of letters and been to many meetings. Sue feels she needs the support from more people now to help her as she is finding it difficult to get any commitment to actually build a Changing Places toilet in North Devon even though there is £14,000 in a pot to go towards it.
Currently Sue is trying to persuade the leisure park providers, who are looking to improve their disability facilities, to include a hoist. Sue and Mencap’s Regional Campaigns Officer Jo Fox came up with an action plan to try and organise a focus group so that the work can be shared and Sue doesn’t feel so alone in her campaign.
Sue and Jo are writing to district councillors, the mayor, and the local M.P raising the issue for herself and others and trying to put some pressure on the council to actually do something. Sue will also get in touch with the parents group at the special needs school, advocacy groups and carers groups to see if they can help in any way.
Once Sue has established a Changing Places campaigning group, she and Jo will look at the local media and try to arrange to meet some councillors so that she can give her presentation and show the Changing Places video clips.
Sue explains: 'It’s a human rights issue really...by not having the right facilities available it is taking away our dignity and privacy'
Sue also said her disability is Spinal Muscular Atrophy which is a neuromuscular condition that affects muscles and most people with this condition will need a wheelchair, a hoist to use a toilet or go swimming and a PA as unable to lift.
The Changing Places consortium wish Sue the very best wish her campaigning and are here to offer support as North Devon begins to improve its provision for people with additional support needs within the local community.