Kelly in the Media

World Toilet Day


Peter Goers: Kelly Vincent, we’ve had the World Toilet summit in Australia recently which looks at – of course because toilets are crucial – equity in toilets.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely. The main purpose of UN World Toilet Day is to talk about people particularly in developing countries who don’t have access to clean facilities. But here in South Australia the Dignity Party likes to put a different bent on it and use it as an opportunity to talk about the benefits of accessible facilities for everyone, whether that be people with disabilities, or older people, or people with temporary injuries, everyone benefits from having these facilities available so that’s why we want to make sure that we have this discussion.

Peter Goers: What is your Changing Places initiative?

Kelly Vincent: It’s not my initiative but Changing Places are essentially high level accessible toilets so as well as having hand rails and that kind of thing and the extra space, they also have an adult-sized change table and a hoist. There are about 14000 people in South Australia who will continue to have continence issues as they go into adulthood so without those facilities they’re either forced to not go out very much or to change on the floor of a public toilet… We’ve managed to secure $1.7m of funding from the State Government to incentivise businesses and Local Governments to build changing places with some investment from the State Government so I’m hoping that that will make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives particularly as we have an ageing population and more people will need this facility so we really need to see this as an investment rather than a charity case.

Peter Goers: It’s expensive to retro fit.

Kelly Vincent: It is extremely expensive to retro fit and often doesn’t lead to the best results either because you’re putting things that may not fit in properly. So doing it from the outset is always the best way to save time and money in the long run.

Peter Goers: You’ve seen a vast improvement in disability access. The door you come in into the studio was changed before you.

Kelly Vincent Yes, I remember that very well. I remember coming in for an interview with Matt and Dave and getting stuck on the doorway with my disobedient leg and Matt Abraham later that day sent me a video of an angle grinder chopping away at the door so I remember that very well.

Peter Goers: You were the catalyst but it’s been used by lots of other people in wheelchairs and we are finally getting proper disability toilets here.

Kelly Vincent: Yes, I was going to say I love what you’ve done with the place.

Peter Goers: There’s still the loos are to be redesigned. Do you find, and is this legal, people are putting in a single loo which is unisex and disability, is that allowable, Kelly?

Kelly Vincent: My understanding is that it is. It’s a bit difficult to say because exactly what facilities are required does depend on things like how much seating, how many patrons can be in the venue so it is a bit difficult to say because there are different rules depending on exactly what the facility is used for.

Peter Goers: We’re seeing more unisex loos.

Kelly Vincent Yes, which I think is a good thing. Accessible toilets are usually unisex anyhow which makes them accessible to an even wider range of people.

Peter Goers: Sometimes it’s annoying when I see disabled loos and people use them to store stuff in there… restaurants have a habit of doing that.

Kelly Vincent: Story of my life Peter and that’s why this World Toilet Day in my office we actually invented a game which were showing some people, called Snakes and Bladders, which I can’t take the credit for that pun, that one was Lucy. Essentially the game was you had to get to the toilet but there were all these obstacles; the hand rails weren’t properly installed, there’s a photocopier in the bathroom, real life example – a working photocopier, spare furniture, boxes upon boxes of stuff because of course accessible toilets tend to be wider or have more space. And so often proprietors say to themselves, oh this is fantastic, I’ve got all this extra storage, again defeating the purpose. So the message that we really want to get out to people is while it’s fantastic that we are moving forward with the higher level access of toilets, we also need to make sure that the existing facilities are kept free for use by those who need them.

Peter Goers: And to whom – if this, a complaint about this – the toilet isn’t accessible, to whom does one complain?

Kelly Vincent: Again, if you’re in a restaurant the complaint should go to the owner of that restaurant, I think social media has a big role to play in this now with people being able to make complaints very publicly and rightly or wrongly that does lead to some speedier action than might have otherwise seen. Of course if it’s a council facility the complaints go to the council so it really does depend on what the facility is. But always I’m happy to hear from people and pass that onto the appropriate facility and work with them.

Peter Goers: If you don’t mind talking about your own case Kelly – you have use of your arms and your torso so how do you use the loo if you don’t mind me asking?

Kelly VincentIt’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to describing before. So I am relatively physically independent as a manual wheelchair user, so I can go into the bathroom, providing that I can get to it and all the spare furniture has been moved out of the way. Often I do have to come back and ask for that to happen and then once that occurs I can go in. Then I’ll use the handrail to hoist myself up, and sit myself down on the loo, and I’ll stop describing there – it’s late at night but not late enough.

Peter Goers: But you couldn’t do it without rails.

Kelly Vincent: Indeed. And often the rails aren’t properly installed or they’re even absent entirely so there are a lot of issues, but again that’s as someone who is fairly physically capable. There are people, 14,000 people who at the moment can’t do it at all because of the lack of a hoist and change table.

Peter Goers: Or loos at all.

Kelly Vincent: Exactly. Yes, some smaller restaurants won’t have a toilet at all, let alone a disabled one.

Peter Goers: I did a story last night with the Capri cinema people who are trying to raise $108,000 to retro fit –

Kelly Vincent: Fantastic.

Peter Goers: – Put in a disabled loo in the foyer and a lift to get up three steps. I wish, the Arts Theatre worries me enormously.

Kelly Vincent: Yes.

Peter Goers: Because you’re in a wheelchair or if you have a disability you cannot access a loo at all.

Kelly Vincent: It is very tricky, I’ve been there.

Peter Goers: And that’s wrong, and this has been going on for a very long time.

Kelly Vincent: And you know Peter, speaking of the Arts, another issue that grinds my gears is around Fringe time you check the program and then use the accessibility symbol meaning you can go along and book my tickets and then show up to the venue only to find out that the foyer is accessible but the actual theatre off to the side where the performance is being held is not, and so that’s something we need to get a lot more conversation happening around a lot as well.

Peter Goers: And none if this is your fault, because you check and you plan ahead. Let’s go to Jack Sim, is the founder of World Toilet Day. Hello Jack – when did it start and how?)

Caller Jack Sim: The World Toilet Day started on 19th of November in the year 2001 and I started in Singapore with the first World Toilet Summit, and I have just learned that in Singapore from a flight from Melbourne after successfully finishing the World Toilet Summit in Melbourne, it’s a fascinating group of discussions because you think that there’s not much to learn about toilets, but what do they know? They come and there’s so much to talk about on toilets.

Peter Goers: Well we depend on toilets. And what were some of the results of the conference, the summit, please Jack?

Caller Jack Sim: So we talk about all the different aspects like the 2.3 billion people who do not have access to proper sanitation and this is a really serious problem because when they open defecate, the shit goes into the river and then they contaminate the drinking water and then the people drink it as [unclear] children and they get diarrhoea and they die or they become sick. So the course of not treating the excreta is really, really expensive, and people would wait until they are sick before they go and save them and it costs a lot of medical expenditure, but they wouldn’t invest in preventing them and getting the toilet because they cannot count the number of people they have safe. So this is kind of a oxymoron situation and of course, on the [unclear] issue, that is also very, very important. And even just as I was on the plane back on Qantas, I observed that one of the physically disabled person was able to go into the toilet because there is a partition that they could open up to make the toilet much larger and the helper, or the stewardess, can do that. So I think that these kind of issues are also [unclear].

Peter Goers: And these are equity issues aren’t they. Kelly?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, and as I was saying earlier we really need to move forward from seeing providing these facilities as a charity case, to a business case, because just on the weekend I was having a drink with a few of our candidates and our friends at a heritage hotel actually, that is heritage listed and still managed to put in place some great measures for accessibility including the toilets, and that enables us as wheelchair users and mobility aid users to spend our time there and money there and ring our friends who will spend their money there. So it is absolutely a business case, and again with our ageing population it is a worthwhile investment.

Peter Goers: Of course. And what do you hope for toilets Jack? Jack is the founder of World Toilet Day. You’d like more, particularly in developing countries of course, in terms of sanitation.

Caller Jack Sim: So we have many objectives, one of which is that everybody should have access to a clean, safe toilet any time they did it. So that whenever they need it, not just at home but also when they are out of home, in the school, in the shopping area, in the street, because when you’ve got to go you’ve got to go. So, I was just touring the Melbourne city and I realised that a lot of these street toilets, they are removing it because they want to save money, and that’s the last one that I saw that is still working – it was full of graffiti and not well maintained. I mean this is the most liveable city in the Melbourne city, in the heart of the city.

Peter Goers: Those exel-loos, we’ve got them here. They’re those sort of capsule public toilets.

Kelly Vincent: Yes.

Peter Goers: We were promised they were graffiti proof and vandal proof. Within days they were graffitied and vandalised and you go in and there’s music and everything’s automatic. I’m not exactly convinced of those Kelly, do they work for you?

Kelly Vincent: Generally speaking they do, it’s taken me a bit to get used to them; the idea that you’re sort of stepping into the future when you step into an excellent [unclear], so I’m aware that they can cause some issues for people on the autism spectrum who have certain sensory needs and can find being locked in the automatic doors quite confronting. So they’re not a one-stop shop for everyone and that’s why we need to have a variety of options available including changing places.

Peter Goers: I must compliment rural South Australia because in my travels, and I always say, I can tell you where every public toilet in South Australia is, because of not of my obsession with public toilets not in a George Michael kind of a way, but in a bladder kind of a way.

Kelly Vincent: Keep digging Peter, keep digging.

Peter Goers: No no, most of them are very well kept, often by Progress Associations and they’re generally very accessible and we could all learn from those rural toilets in rural areas. Jack do you agree?

Caller Jack Sim: Yes. I think that the other thing is to also know that you have to do the treatment because if you have a toilet but you don’t have the treatment you actually are having a lot of trouble, so there’s this ‘flush and forget’ – 2.3 billion people don’t have a toilet but 4.1 billion people have untreated faeces that needs, … if you minus that 2.3, you’ve still got over one billion people whose faeces are actually going into their river or going to the sea.

Peter Goers: Terrible.

Caller Jack Sim: So this is kind of like developed countries also doing that, so I think that the main problem about sanitation, toilet accessibility is because we don’t want to talk about it. We say, ‘gasp’, we can’t use the word ‘this’, you can’t say ‘poo’, we can’t say ‘toilet’ and then we are so elegant, and then because of our vanity to be elegant we refuse to talk about a very, very important thing.

Peter Goers: Yes, I think that’s important. Jack thank you for coming on, founder of World Toilet Day, good luck to you Jack. Thank you. And your organisation. Now, ‘spare a thought for people with an ostomy who are not entitled to use a disabled loo but must change an appliance on the floor of public loos’, says James in Whyalla.

Kelly Vincent: It’s interesting that you said, ‘not entitled to’, accessible toilets are for – there’s no licence that you have to get, to use them so they are open to anyone who needs extra space and privacy including people with ostomy bag and so on and they are welcome to use that. I guess there is a lot of stigma around people with invisible disabilities, no visible indicator, using those toilets, and that is an issue that we need to address that stigma. But certainly I would welcome anyone to use those facilities for any reason related to their health or disability. So it’s important that we address our own prejudice and remember that as many as 90% of disabilities don’t have a visible indicator so it’s really important that we don’t assume.

Peter Goers: Type I mum is saying ‘I find it hard to decide when to use an All Access bathroom. I have a young child with Type 1 diabetes, who is hypo-unaware. We are training a Medical Alert dog to alert to low Blood Glucose Levels, and have been advised – these dogs are –

Kelly Vincent: Amazing.

Peter Goers: And they’re helping people with PTSD.

Kelly Vincent: Seizures, epilepsy.

Peter Goers: Exactly.

Kelly Vincent: Anxiety.

Peter Goers: And have been advised to use the disability bathroom to allow his diabetes alert dog to go with him. I want to make sure we don’t inconvenience others. Does Ms Vincent have a thought on this one.

Kelly Vincent: I’m not the guru, I’m not the Prime Minister of toilets but if you’ve been advised that that’s what’s best for your situation absolutely, I think it should be welcomed. As I said, they’re called All Access for a reason, they’re for everybody who needs those extra facilities and much the same as with accessible parking spaces there will be people that will need to use them at other times and other times, sometimes and other times not … so I guess it’s just being considerate of what your own needs are, but also in the context and if you are able to hang on that little bit longer, and there’s someone who is a wheelchair user and maybe can’t use that other one, look at your other options, but if you absolutely have to and you’ve been advised to then follow that advice; I’m not your doctor, I’m not your professional. And as I’ve said they are for everybody. There’s no licence, it’s just a consideration thing that we need to be –

Peter Goers: And people are considerate aren’t they.

Kelly Vincent: Generally speaking; every now and again you will see someone, I had to wait a few weeks back for ages and ages for the accessible loo, and it turned out that it was just a women with a shopping trolley trying on her new clothes in the extra space, which didn’t –

Peter Goers: [laughs] What did she say when she came out?

Kelly Vincent: I think she just looked a bit embarrassed and sort of wandered off and mumbled some sort of apology, but again it’s just, it’s being considerate; I guess the problem is that at the time she went in there probably was nobody waiting, and so she probably didn’t see the harm. But while she was in there, a queue had started to form of people that didn’t have an option of using another toilet, so that’s the danger, I think, of sometimes assuming that you’re not taking anything away from somebody when you don’t see the queue forming outside. So again it is just all being about being considerate and I’m very hesitant to give out official advice because I can only speak from my own experience, and there’s no – as I said – there’s no permit that you need to get to use these facilities, it is just about consideration of each other.

Peter Goers: You haven’t changed in your role. Six years in politics now.

Kelly Vincent: Eight, almost.

Peter Goers: You haven’t changed. You’re the same person you were Kelly.

Kelly Vincent: I don’t know if that’s an insult or a compliment.

Peter Goers: No it’s a compliment.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you.

Peter Goers: Because we all worried about you, you know when you started, because you were so young; you were 21.

Kelly Vincent: 21.

Peter Goers: And we were so worried that so much was being put on you but you’ve coped very well; you’re a strong, you’re an iron-clad butterfly Kelly aren’t you.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you, that’s a beautiful expression, I’ll have to write that down. I love my job, I love what I’ve been able to achieve for so many people who are marginalised and forgotten by other parties and other sectors of society, and I am really glad the awareness of what it’s really about is spreading because it’s not just about people with disabilities, and it never has been. It’s about everyone who faces marginalization in society or challenges, be that because of age, or gender, or sexual orientation or whatever. You know, diabetes, ostomy bags, all these issues. And they’re going to increase as the age, whether we like to face it or not we are doing rapidly, and so I’m very proud of what I have had to achieve so far, but there’s a lot more to be done, so bring on March 2018.

Peter Goers: Thank you Kelly. Thanks for coming in.

Kelly Vincent: As always, thank you Peter.

Peter Goers: Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent, thank you. Good to see you.