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Norfolk Loo Lady: ‘Why I’m campaigning for toilet equality’

PUBLISHED: 12:57 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:59 12 November 2018

'Norfolk Loo Lady' Emma Spagnola with her children, Mason and Bastian. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLA

'Norfolk Loo Lady' Emma Spagnola with her children, Mason and Bastian. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLA

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Cromer’s Emma Spagnola, known as the ‘Norfolk Loo Lady’, has been fighting to have more accessible toilets opened across Norfolk. In the first of a new series of columns, she takes us behind the campaign and why it is so important.

A Changing Places toilet at intu Chapelfield in Norwich. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLAA Changing Places toilet at intu Chapelfield in Norwich. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLA

I guess I should start with my favourite topic – toilets!

When my eldest son with autism got too big for a baby changer, I started wondering what our next step would be. After a quick look on a well-known search engine I found Changing Places.

Changing Places are a 12-square-metre room with an adult size changing bench, a ceiling hoist, a toilet (preferably a wash and dry type), a sink (preferably with a rise and fall), a large blue paper dispenser (to keep changing bench clean) and a privacy screen.

When I started campaigning there was only four in Norfolk: at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Vauxhall Hub, Norwich Marina Centre, Great Yarmouth, and Manor Farm Barns, Glandford, Holt.

I found out that over a quarter-of-a-million people relied on these toilets to be able to get out of home for a reasonable amount of time. This is when I knew I needed to start campaigning and make Cromer firstly and then Norfolk toilets accessible to all.

We are fortunate in that we only need the larger changing bench.

But Changing Places have so many different variations of use.

A frequent misconception is that disabled people cannot use the toilet, a few of my friends have older children who need the hoist to move to the bench, undress, use hoist to move to the toilet and back again, this is true for many disabled adults too.

As a mum with two children with learning disabilities I occasionally need the loo, where do I put the double pushchair where it and my boys are safe while I ‘go’?

Again, this is something that many parents and carers with children and adults in larger wheelchairs suffer with too.

Four Changing Places in a county the size of Norfolk just wasn’t going to do, so laptop at the ready I started contacting all the local tourist attractions, large businesses and the many councils starting with my own.

This is the starting point of the Norfolk Loo Lady.

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