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Access to a Public Loo!


Thursday June 12 2014 11:00 AM

I took some time to think about my approach to my blog post. “Access” encompasses so many issues it was a little bit daunting to pick one. 

I wanted to make sure I picked a topic that I fully relate to. One obvious topic is access to treatments or specialists or hospitals... something people in Donegal know all too well about, regardless of the illness they have. But I’ve been lucky; I lived in Dublin for my diagnosis and initial treatments, and never had to contend with a 10-hour round trip to see a specialist. So I didn’t feel in a position to write about it. Thankfully.

I had another think about it. I came up with a topic that isn’t really talked about, and is likely to embarrass the hell out of me. However, it also isn’t high on the list of issues people associate with MS, so in the spirit of raising awareness and relating to others, I decided to write about needing a wee.

Or more specifically- being out somewhere and suddenly realising you’re going to pee yourself but you haven’t any idea where the nearest public loo is!!

I’ve had a few close calls, and thankfully I’ve always managed to find a toilet, but it’s now yet another thing I’ve to consider before going somewhere.

Do you know where the nearest public toilet is to you right now? If not, it’s possibly because you don’t have to worry about needing it. Or have had to consider how few there actually are. And, trust me, there are even less that you’d actually use.  

I’m sure some people are wondering why I don’t go before I leave the house. I do. And when I get to wherever I am going, I figure out where the loos are. I get pretty stressed if I am not sure where the bathroom is. If I need to wee, I need to wee NOW. There isn’t much of a warning period, so it’s pretty important to me that I know I can go.  

A lot of shops and cafes do have toilets, but in many cases they are for customers only. You have to be a bit brazen to stroll in and use it, while trying not to catch the eye of anyone working there. So more often than not, I end up buying something. I’d like to say at this point, I don’t at all think shops and cafes should be obliged to make their toilet available to non-patrons. But it’s nice when they do.

Disabled toilets are a grey area for me. I don’t really know what the accepted etiquette is... are they just another toilet to be used by anyone, with priority given to disabled people? Or should we queue for the other toilets and leave the wheelchair accessible one empty? I’ll absolutely use it if there are no other toilets available. I always feel a bit of a fraud though, strolling in (or running, let’s face it- I am in a rush) with no obvious disability. 

While writing this post I did a little research into “Can’t Wait” cards. Research that equates to a bit of Googling and sending one Facebook message! I’d read about them before on the UK’s Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website and I think they are a really good idea. It’s a little card for your wallet explaining that you have MS and that you need to urgently use the toilet. So, if you are in a place with no public toilet, you can show the card and ask to access the facilities. Similar cards are used by people with Crohn’s disease and colitis. I don’t think (I am open to correction) that any Irish organisations produce these cards.  

Obviously there are some companies which aren’t in a position to allow members of the public access to their staff toilets.  It’s not practical everywhere. But, for people like me, it would be reassuring to know that we could nip into an office if we needed to. I’d love to see buildings with a sticker displayed in the window showing that it’s ok for people with carrying a card, like the Can’t Wait one, to use the loo. A friend sent me this link to a similar scheme in Leeds.  

I know it’s not for everyone- some people won’t want to draw attention to their MS (or Crohn’s) by having to produce a card declaring their toilet needs to all and sundry. But like a lot of MS issues I come across in my journey, it’s about having the choice. And anything that makes life a wee bit easier is a good thing!

Do you think you’d use a card like this?

Would your place of work allow members of the public with a medical condition to access the toilet facilities?

It’s something to think about, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Author: Niamh McCarron

Tags: access, accessible, toilets, worldmsday



Thursday June 12 2014 12:34

I have had one of the assistance card for the toilet for some time. It can make it easier for you to approach a member of staff in a store to inquire about loos.

I have used the card and found that when people read the card they understood and assisted me in the best way the could.

Normally by telling me how to find the loo I was on one occasion even allowed to use the staff loo as the store did not have a customer one.
With the issue of disabled loos and who should use them I think it is a case that any one with a disability should use them people who use a walking stick etc can still need help to get on and off the toilet so need the rails etc found in a disabled loo.
It can how ever be very frustrating and upsetting if you need the loo and find out someone is in the loo. Only to find out when the door opens and out walks someone who is fully fit had used the loo so they could take in the shopping cart they had used. I have had this problem a few times in a local store.

One one occasion the person who walked out had been sitting in the loo to drink the cans of beer they had just bought In the store!


Thursday June 12 2014 13:28

I lived in England and had what they call a Radar Key. It was a master key that fitted all disabled toilets. You had to buy this key but it worked very well and stopped able bodied people using the disabled toilets.


Thursday June 12 2014 17:42

I can empathise totally with you. Before I started using the wheelchair on reaching a new venue I had to scope out where the loos were. The wheelchair gives me a great deal of speed when it is necessary. I also have the universal key.


Saturday December 26 2015 06:28

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

Keep Posting:)


Saturday September 08 2018 14:23

How am I only reading this now? Since I was a child, urgency and panic attack’s about needing a loo have been a constant feature of my life. Throw in MS and having a baby and it’s become a whole lot more frequent! I would wear a tshirt with the card on it if they were available.
I’ve resorted to carrying my parking permit with me for such emergencies.

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