The devoted mum of a seven-year-old boy left with severe brain damage after being starved of oxygen at birth has launched a petition to improve public toilet facilities for the severely disabled.
Samantha Buck has had more than 15,000 signatures in a week and said the response proves how bad current facilities are for children and adults with physical and learning disabilities.
The Horsham mum-of-three was inspired to start the campaign after facing difficulties with her son Alfie who has quadraplegic cerebral palsy which leaves him completely reliant on a wheelchair.
She is calling on the Government to change all public disabled toilets into ‘Changing Places’ toilets with a bench and hoist so disabled people can be lifted onto a toilet with ease or changed on a clean surface rather than the toilet floor.
Samantha’s campaign is being backed by medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell who earlier this year secured an £8.5m lifetime care package for Alfie from Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Samantha said: “When Alfie was five years old we were given a RADAR key to access the disabled toilets in Horsham which I was very pleased with. But when we actually used the toilet I realised that disabled loos are not for the severely disabled and elderly, they are for those who walk with sticks or wheelchair users with upper mobility and can get themselves onto a toilet.
“Standard disabled toilets do not provide changing benches or hoists to lift the person on to the toilet or bench. Most are too small to accommodate more than one person.”
She continued: “Without Changing Places toilets the person with disabilities is put at risk and families or carers are forced to risk their own health and safety by laying their daughter, son or loved one on a toilet floor. This is dangerous, unhygienic, humiliating and undignified. We take it for granted that we would not change a baby on the floor of a public toilet - so why on earth is this acceptable for disabled adult people?”
Jane Weakley, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell who represented the family in their legal battle for justice, said: “The problem Samantha has identified is huge and affects so many people, yet many don’t know where to turn for help. We will continue to support her with her before she presents the petition to Downing Street.”
“Our work puts us in contact with many seriously injured or disabled adults who feel they are simply not able to leave the house because public facilities are just not fit for purpose.
“This is hugely unfair which is why we are backing Samantha with her campaign. For disabled people or their carers this step would give them peace of mind that they can enjoy a trip out and integrate with society without having to forfeit their dignity.