What does disability look like? Do you have to be in a wheelchair? Use a cane? Is disability something we can see? Of course not. Well, not always. And one blogger has called attention to her disability, saying she won’t be shamed because of it.
An able-bodied woman, Sam Cleasby, who appears fit and healthy on all accounts, runs into a disabled toilet in a shopping centre. She’s left the kids to look after the trolley while she makes her way to the toilet. Another woman sees her and makes disapproving expressions and noises, shaming her for using the toilet in the first place.
But what the woman didn’t know about Cleasby, what she couldn’t see, was the colostomy bag tucked under her clothing. What she didn’t know was that she makes frequent, often rushed, sometimes messy trips to the loo throughout the day.
In response to this woman and the other people who have commented or laughed at her in the past, she wrote an open letter to the public on her blog, saying, “Remember that not all people who have the right to use disabled toilets are in a wheelchair.”
The 33-year-old mother, blogger and activist’s post has since gone viral, with more than 1 million people reading it. Here’s just a snippet from the open letter:
“Dear lady who loudly tutted at me using the disabled loos,” the open letter begins.
“I know you saw me running in, with my able bodied legs and all. You saw me opening the door with my two working arms. You saw me without a wheelchair. Without any visible sign of disability.
“Take a moment. Remember that not all people who have the right to use disabled toilets are in a wheelchair. Some of us have a jpouch, a lot of us have an Ostomy bag that needs emptying and changing with the use of space, a sink and a bin. And even more of us just don’t want to shit our pants in public.”
Cleasby’s post resonated with so many people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease or other bowel-related issues, that many took to social media with the hashtag, #StopPooBeingTaboo.
“I too suffer silently without showing any outward signs of disablement, but a short time ago on using a disabled toilet in a public house I was met with disdain by an old lady in a wheelchair with her daughter waiting to go into the toilet,” Keith commented on Cleasby’s blog.
“If looks could kill I would have died on the spot, but should I have had to explain that I suffer from colitis at the toilet door! I think not, just because people are not all in wheelchairs does not mean they are not suffering also.”
Another woman, Karen, commented, “I suffer from IBS and have to know where the nearest loo is at all times or I literally can have a panic attack. So glad you wrote this.”
— iestyn (@iestynwyn) February 22, 2015
— Siobhán CB (@siobhan_cb) February 21, 2015
— Holly (@hollyjokes) February 21, 2015
More compassion, less judgement. That’s what we need to see. What do you think? Share your own thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.