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23 January 2021

The Loo Lady

One of our strongest Changing Places supporters , Rachel Erickson, has just ended her "Loo Tours" of London. We would like to thank Rachel for her support and wish her all the best in the future. Her last loo blog is below.

"Spending all day talking about toilets probably doesn’t sound like the best job in the world, but I love it! I run London Loo Tours, which is a walking tour of public toilets in London. Along the way my guests learn helpful tips on how to find toilets, history and fun stories.
There are lots of names for toilets: conveniences, restrooms, bogs, lavatories and loos are just a few. The word “loo” comes from the middle ages when people used chamber pots. Because they didn’t have toilets with a flush they would often just throw their wee out the window. Before they threw it they would shout “Gardy-Loo” so that people below were warned and wouldn’t get hit by a shower of wee (Gardy Loo comes from French “Gardez-l’eau” which means “watch out for the water!”)

I first became interested in toilets because I didn’t like paying 30p to use one. I started to learn where all the free ones in London were. Then someone suggested that I should start a tour. It was meant to be a joke, but I quickly learned how important toilets actually are. Without them things would get pretty smelly pretty fast!

Imagine if you didn’t have a toilet to go to. Or that the only toilet was miles away. What would you do?

In the entire world there are 2.5 billion people who don’t have one. That is more than a third of the world’s population! Sometimes this means that they have to go on by the side of the road or in a field. Other times they might have to walk a long way to get to a toilet. The problem is particularly bad in developing countries, but there are also issues closer to home.

Most people in England are lucky and don’t have to think too much about where they use a toilet. Sometimes they have to look a bit longer, but there will always be one eventually. It is much more difficult if you need special access in a toilet. You have to know where they are and plan ahead so you can get to one in time.

I always make sure to point out a Changing Places toilet on my tour.

Changing Places toilets are designed for people who need extra facilities beyond what is normally given in accessible toilets. This includes people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or an acquired brain injury.

Inside each Changing Places toilet there is an adult sized changing table, a hoist, and enough space for up to two carers. They are designed to be safe and clean spaces, and can be accessed with a radar key.

For many people this makes a huge difference between being able to enjoy a day out and having to be back at home in time to use the loo.

The thing I enjoy most about my job are the people I meet. Everyone has a toilet story. I love hearing about people’s favorite toilets, or interesting facts that they know.

I think if people talked about toilets more things would improve. Talking won’t solve all the problems, but it’s a first step towards finding ways to take action so that one day everyone will have access to a clean toilet."

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