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24/10/2021

Call of nature must not be a barrier of discrimination

Toilet signage motion for Crohn's Disease sufferers backed by Council

Call of nature must not be a barrier of discrimination

Cllr Angela Dobbins of the SDLP said: "Because of the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding invisible conditions, people are suffering in silence and being discriminated against"

A motion calling to help address discrimination towards people with Crohn's Disease was passed by Derry City & Strabane District Council.

Cllr Angela Dobbins (SDLP) tabled the motion calling for new signage to help address the stigma and discrimination towards people with Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and other invisible conditions.

She called on Council to ensure premises bear this signs, to encourage local businesses to follow suit and for engagement with groups such as Crohn’s and Colitis UK, to ensure training is provided to staff members to improve their understanding around the conditions and to prevent potential embarrassment for those who suffer with them.

She said: “How many of us have entered a toilet cubicle and have had to negotiate sideways past the toilet paper holder just to close the cubicle door behind us?

“How many of us have tried to undress/redress to go to the loo without banging our elbows on the cubicle walls?

“How many people living with Crohns, Colitis, MS or IBS have got an earful from a 'well meaning' member of the public for using disabled facilities?

“This is a reality for one in seven people across the UK living with an invisible condition – MS, Autism, COPD to name a few – and I’m only scratching the surface.

“But I’d like to highlight Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. One of the main symptoms, but by no means the only one, is the frequent and urgent need to use the toilet.

“Because of the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding invisible conditions, people are suffering in silence and being discriminated against for trying to use accessible toilets.

“People with Crohn’s or Colitis and other invisible conditions can outwardly ‘look-well’, and do not meet some people’s outdated perception that disabilities must be visible.

“One in two people with hidden disabilities have had negative experiences from members of the public just for using an accessible toilet.

“I believe that education is the key – through changing accessible toilet signage and training staff we are challenging the stigma.

“Accessibility is about much more than wheelchair access. It is important that a more inclusive approach is developed.

“This does not need to be expensive. Simple things like signage make such a difference and are a really important step in redefining the stereotypes around disability.

“The signs, placed on accessible toilet doors, will urge staff and customers to remember – not all disabilities are visible allowing people with hidden disabilities to use these facilities without fear of criticism from others.

“Some supermarkets have already implemented this for example, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Council must follow suit.

“People with disabilities already face too many barriers in their everyday lives – we can’t allow the ‘call of nature’ to be one of them.”

Councillors voted unanimously for the motion. They also agreed to seek advice from Crohn’s and Colitis UK regarding opportunities for information and training.

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