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07 March 2021

Supporting the Colostomy Association

The Changing Places consortium have been working with the Colostomy Association for the past few years to raise awareness of the need for colostomy shelves in Changing Places toilets. Below is a blog from Caroline Richards explaining why they are an important addition to a Changing Places toilet. Not all Changing Places toilets have a colostomy shelf and we hope that they will be included as more people are made aware of the need. For more information please see our practical guide on page 52.

Caroline’s story
“Not many people know that much about what a stoma is, and even less understand the difficulties of using a public toilet with one.”
Caroline Richards is a mum from Wales and she has a stoma. This means she has an opening on the side of her abdomen through which bodily waste can pass into a ‘stoma bag’.
Just like anyone else, Caroline needs to use the loo but her experiences of using public toilets have been mixed. 
In December 2015, Caroline made the national news after posting a picture a Facebook. The photo showed Caroline having to change her stoma bag on the floor of a public toilet as there were not the facilities available for someone with an ostomy. It was shared by thousands of people on Facebook.
 It is estimated that around 1 in 500 people in the UK live with a stoma and many struggle to find public toilet facilities that meet their additional needs.
Why do people with a stoma need additional requirements?
 “The facilities in a disabled toilet can be very varied.  More often than not, they do not cater for people with an Ostomy.  I struggle to find a level space where I can put the various things I need to use in order to change my bag.”
People with a stoma need to be able to change their ‘stoma bag’ in a way which is uncomplicated, clean and discrete. Most toilets in the UK do not have the facilities to enable someone with a stoma to be able to easily change their stoma bag.
The three main requirements for a ‘stoma-friendly loo’ are a hook on the back of the door so that ostomates can hang their luggage and clothing; a shelf or surface space so they can spread out their stoma bags and accessories on a clean, hygienic surface; finally, a disposal bin in each cubicle so that ostomates do not have to dispose of their stoma bag in public view.
These changes are small but they make a huge difference to people living with a stoma. 
Why Changing Places toilets are so important for people with a stoma?
“I have often had to change my colostomy bag whilst kneeling on a toilet floor.  This experience leaves me very upset and often very fearful of going out as my first thought would be about the toilet facilities and what they are like.  I feel that there needs to be more awareness around the different people who actually need to use a disabled toilet”
Changing Places toilets meet the needs of people living with a stoma with a hook and shelf space in every cubicle. However, they are also important as they are challenging perceptions of what kind of people can use a ‘disabled’ toilet.
Many people with a stoma are challenged when they use accessible toilets despite their right to do so. Changing Places toilets are not only important due to their additional facilities, but because they raise awareness and understanding of the different types of people who need to use accessible loos.
For more information about the Colostomy Association please visit their website here

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