This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own!
If you follow us on social media, you may have seen that we are working with Cleen to create a series of blog posts surrounding the importance of accessing clean, safe and accessible toilets. My first instalment discusses the purpose behind the app, how to use it and why people living with disabilities could benefit from it, which you can read by clicking here!
Obviously, most of us won’t be using public bathrooms until this crazy pandemic blows over, where we will be more conscious of using clean facilities in the future! But until then I wanted to give you an insight into how the Cleen App helped me access public bathrooms during a special trip we went on prior to the current crisis, starting with a car journey from Newcastle to London! Unlike previous journeys where I struggled to find suitable service stations without prior research, we were able to visit a variety of rest stops based on the information available within the Cleen App! Naturally, we didn’t always encounter the best facilities, but thankfully I was able to feedback my thoughts via the app after my visit. Preventing someone else from wasting their time at such problematic service stations in the future!
This service station isn’t easy for disabled guests to access on the southbound side, especially if you struggle to walk/propel up and down steep inclines. Due to my genetic illness, I can only self propel on flat surfaces, but even my carer struggled to safely push me up and down the entrance ramp as it was so steep! Also when visiting during the night, several coaches block the disabled parking bays! We tried to tell the drivers and station staff why this wasn’t acceptable, but nobody was interested! If you can take your time you shouldn’t have any problems; but if you are like me and need access to toilets in a hurry, these factors could make things rather difficult!
There aren’t Changing Places facilities on-site, and upon entering the accessible cubicle I discovered the toilet had quite the mess inside and the floor was very sticky. Again, I don’t know if this is due to the fact we visited during the night, but we didn’t encounter any issues at the other locations we visited that night! There wasn’t a bin in the accessible cubicle, only a peddle sanitary box that was smelly and overflowing. They also don’t specify that their single accessible cubicle only accommodates wheelchair users that can transfer from the left-hand side. Something that may not be a problem for some people, but for others, it could result in a wasted trip! If only the station publicised this information on their website and/or had a sign on the toilet door, visitors could plan ahead! On the bright side, I was very pleased to see the red emergency cord dangling freely to the floor!
This southbound service station is definitely better than most, especially for guests with disabilities as everything is easy to access and they have a complete collection of bathroom facilities. Including a Changing Places toilet, regular gender-specific cubicles, baby changing facilities and a standard accessible toilet that can be accessed via a RADAR key. The Changing Places toilet is easy to locate and is much larger in size than the standard disabled toilets. It has multiple handrails dotted around the room, a lowered sink that still has knee space underneath it, and room to transfer from both sides your wheelchair to the toilet. Something that rarely happens in standard accessible cubicles, even though some people are unable to transfer from both side. It also had a large changing table, which can be adjusted in height and/or position, a wide roll of paper to cover the bed, a mobile hoist, along with enough space for a disabled person and up to 2 carers so they can comfortably manoeuvre equipment. Whilst using the Changing Places toilet, the rest of my family used the standard cubicles; both of which were extremely clean, tidy and comfortable to use!
This is a very large service station that runs over the top of the motorway, with separate parking areas on each side of the carriageway. It is really easy for guests of all abilities to access from either the south and northbound side, as the distance between the disabled parking bays and the entrance is very short and completely flat! You then have the option to take an escalator or elevator to the main services, but if I remember correctly the accessible toilets are situated on the ground level and are always reasonably clean! However, there aren’t any Changing Places facilities on-site.
The southbound accessible toilets are situated next to the gender bathrooms, which was surprisingly spacious! (It could easily accommodate both myself, my wheelchair, carer and an assistance dog!) There is a small/low sink that could easily be accessed by a wheelchair user, multiple grab rails, pedal-operated bins and a toilet with a left-hand side transfer. The northbound accessible toilets are set up slightly different as they are situated at the entrance of the gender-specific bathrooms, making it difficult to find and awkward to enter when you have a male partner/carer! The cubicle itself was very similar, although it was quite dark and slightly smaller. I also found it hard to access the sink, as there is a large box preventing wheelchair users from parking directly underneath. Meaning you either have to lean forward or park sideways and twist, two things I really struggle to do after sitting in the car for several hours! This toilet also only accommodates wheelchair users that can transfer from the right-hand side. Again this may not be a problem for some people, but for others, it could result in a wasted trip! You could always cross over to the other side via the main walkway and multiple elevators, as both sides have different transfer options; but this is hardly ideal if you are in a hurry and/or the elevator is out of order!
As you can see. public bathrooms within UK motorway services differ greatly when it comes to accessibility. There is a MAJOR lack in Changing Places facilities, which is not fair considering it is estimated that a quarter of a million people cannot use standard disabled toilets. This is due to issues such as severely limited mobility, people requiring bulky equipment, being dependent on assistance from one or more carers and having their continence pads changed.
In 2019, 22 service stations were awarded Government funding to introduce Changing Places facilities onto their premises. This is obviously fantastic, but there is still a long way to go and until then we can utilise services such as the Cleen App to ensure people of all abilities can find/access the best facilities for their individual needs. They will also feedback any issues highlight to the facility owners, meaning people living with disabilities finally have a platform to voice their opinions and fight for a better quality of life! If you would like to read these reviews in more detail along with reviews from my family regarding the standard bathrooms, simply download the Cleen App and type in the postcodes listed above! Also keep an eye out for our next instalment, which is all about using the Cleen App to navigate trains and toilets!