Paralympic athlete and campaigner Anne Wafula Strike is calling on sports ministers for UK sports venues regarding the lack of accessible bathrooms and facilities for handicapped individuals, calling it a “serious injustice” for disabled athletes and sports fans.
Anne Wafula Strike, paralympic athlete and campaigner, is joining disabled athletes and sports fans to urge ministers in the UK to make sure all of their sports venues have fully accessible bathrooms so everyone can enjoy sports equally.
Currently, fewer than 10% of sports venues in the UK have accessible facilities available. Anna Strike has written to the sports minister of the UK, Lucy Frazer, as well as the disability minister, Tom Pursglove. In her writing, she stated that current facilities are leading to “serious injustice” by preventing disabled fans and athletes from enjoying the sport, according to The Guardian.
Typically, there are two types of toilets for individuals with disabilities, accessible toilets that are large enough to accommodate a standard wheelchair with a height-adjusted toilet and sink, and changing places toilets that are larger and can accommodate individuals who need greater support needs; this includes larger power-assisted wheelchairs, or individuals who have a caretaker.
“This is an urgent issue and needs to be addressed by a change in legislation to ensure that disabled people are not left behind.”
In the UK, according to the Guardian, there are more than 250,000 disabled people who need a changing places toilet, however, there are only 1,893 registered changing places toilets throughout the UK.
Government mapping shows that there are nine areas in the UK without any of these toilets, and many other areas need improvement provisions to make these bathrooms more accessible. The government has allocated more than £30 million in recent years for the provision changes needed for changing place toilets especially, however, campaigners have stated that there are many gaps in these improvements that have left disabled individuals struggling to find a proper bathroom.
Rise For Sport is an organization that is running a campaign to increase the amount of accessible bathrooms, with a goal of seeing them in every sporting venue by the end of 2023. Wafula’s letter to ministers explained how current legislation is simply not enough.
“Sport is such an important part of society. It has played a huge role in my life and it is saddening to hear disabled people face barriers to access.”
Wafula’s letter stated that there is currently no legal requirement for existing venues to provide accessible bathrooms/toilets. Three individuals who are wheelchair users with cerebral palsy have created a petition calling on all sports venues to make the change.
Lorna Fillingham is another disability campaigner who has a 13-year-old child who requires a changing room toilet, she stated:
“My daughter cannot stand or walk. She needs 24-hour support. I wouldn’t even consider taking her to a sporting event because of the lack of changing places toilets. Disabled people talk about ‘pee math’, limiting fluids so they won’t need to use a toilet while they’re out. At the age of 13 my daughter’s world should be expanding but it’s shrinking.”
A government spokesperson stated:
“We want to see a step-change in the number of changing places toilets across the country. We recently announced up to £30.5m funding to local authorities in England to boost the number of larger accessible toilets over three years. Changing places toilets are a vital facility for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets and for their family and carers.
That’s why they will be installed in existing buildings and we have made it compulsory for new public buildings to have them, including sports stadiums.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.