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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

It’s Not Easy, You Know! - The Disabled Toilet Debacle

I seem to have shared this story far too much in the last couple of months to not put it to pen. So, here we go.

Disabled toilets are there for disabled people (duh!), they are larger and have specific accessibility features that allow those of us with additional needs to relieve ourselves outside of our own homes. They are a lifeline, sometimes an extremely dirty and smelly lifeline, but a lifeline nonetheless. Often there is only one, or if you’re lucky two disabled toilets at any given location. Naturally, there is sometimes a queue to access them, this is totally understandable. Disabled people make up 15-18% of the population - depending on who you ask - so it makes sense that we may have to wait for the loo!

So my story begins at Gatwick Airport, extremely early on a Tuesday morning. I had already navigated the usual million and one challenges, including an inexplicable merging of the special assistance and family security lines, which led to open confrontation between one family and the gateway security. Apparently they had had to queue so long, they were no longer allowed through, thus missing their flight entirely, poor buggers!

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always at the airport three hours early, at least, so as to avoid such a situation. Plus I really like airport breakfasts and a spot of shopping!

On this occasion, I had merrily ordered my breakfast, only to realise that the disabled toilet, which I suddenly really needed, thank you bladder, was halfway across the atrium. So, cursing my dysfunctional bladder, I asked the restaurant if they were happy to keep my breakfast warm whilst I made the trip.

I reached said toilet, only to realise that it was currently in use. Now I’ll admit that I was perhaps slightly less patient than normal as my mouth was watering and tummy grumbling at the thought of my full English and I was slightly despairing at the idea my food might go cold.

Eventually, after an annoyingly long wait door opens to reveal a perfectly abled-bodied father, accompanied by two abled-bodied children. I did not say a word, but clearly my face expressed my frustration and impatience perfectly as, on his way out of the disabled toilet this man shouted the following:

“I’v got two kids you know, it isn’t easy!”

I found myself blinking a few times, frowning in confusion and turning to Leisa, my PA.

“Did you say something?“ – She asked.

“Nothing at all, I think that was his conscience speaking” - I replied.

Now, let me get this clear, able-bodied people using disabled toilet is something I come across on a weekly basis, at least. However, whilst I strongly believe that this is not acceptable, I generally don’t feel the need to write a blog about it. Airports are busy stressful places and I can understand the temptation when the disabled toilet seems oh so open and empty.

It’s wrong to use the disabled toilet if you do not need it, the many people who do need it truly understand how important it is to them. For many of us travel outside of the vicinity of our home wouldn’t be possible without this facility, it is not a matter of convenience.

What’s even more wrong is aggressively shouting at the girl in the wheelchair because you are feeling slightly mortified/self-conscious about having wrongly used the disabled toilet! Not only is this downright rude, it’s also disrespectful and shows a total lack of understanding. On this occasion it was made significantly worse by the poor example this man was setting for his children. Generally, if you’re going to feel embarrassed about something, you should take that into consideration before you follow through.

I am pleased to see the increased usage of Radar keys across the UK, this cool little device prevents such confrontations, and preserves the disabled toilets for those who truly need them. I carry a key on me at all times and have generally found that key access toilets, including the Holy Grail - Changing Places, are far less prone to abuse.

My message to you, the general public, is the next time you consider using a disabled toilet as a matter of convenience, please consider that you are disadvantaging the disabled community as a whole. In addition, if my breakfast goes cold because of your inconsideration, you may just get an extremely dirty look from me.

145 views2 comments


Sep 12, 2023

I agree but in the states they are always being used by able bodied people.

Kyrby Brown
Kyrby Brown
Sep 13, 2023
Replying to

It’s the same in the UK but I think many do not understand the impact that has on disabled people. If they understood better then perhaps they would think twice.

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