Pissed Off!

Disability activists fighting for toilet access in the UK

Authored by: Charlotte Jones , Jen Slater , Sam Cleasby , Gill Kemp , Eleanor Lisney , Sarah Rennie

The Routledge Handbook of Disability Activism

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815349303
eBook ISBN: 9781351165082
Adobe ISBN:


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The toilet is a political place. The labels on its doors intentionally include some and exclude others, whilst the space, design and facilities themselves permit certain bodies, needs and actions, and forbid others. Access to a toilet away from home is not only about gaining entry to the cubicle; toilets also grant access to wider community, public spaces and opportunities. The toilet teaches us who is welcome and who is expected. This chapter is about disability activism which focuses on the toilet. We begin by outlining various forms of recent disability toilet activism in the UK. Modes of activism are conceptualised in a broad sense here: from artistic endeavours; to parliamentary lobbying; social media interventions; personal conversations; and direct action. Toilets are stitched into our wider social and material relations, thus strategies for change are multiple, divergent and symptomatic of wider political and personal differences. Toilets are often utilised as an exemplar for social justice claims. The demands of disability activists, for example, do not start or end with the toilet, but toilet access illustrates their broader claims to recognition and social value, and against physical barriers to their use of space and to perform bodily functions. Although it would be impossible to offer a comprehensive list and evaluation of the full and eclectic range of toilet activism, we do spend some time considering contrasts and tensions between disparate approaches. Such a discussion gives context to, and is followed by, four personal accounts from disability and toilet activists and campaigners.

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