Across the UK’s accessible toilets, there is an issue that is quickly becoming too dangerous to ignore: Tied up emergency cords. Emma Storr speaks to disability lifestyle vlogger Gem Hubbard about the risks and her new campaign to raise awareness.
After her own experiences of using accessible toilets, disability lifestyle vlogger and wheelchair user Gem Hubbard (@WheelsNoHeels_) knew there had to be a change.
More often than not emergency cords in accessible bathrooms were tied up, left out of reach and posing a risk to the user.
Legally, all accessible toilets must be fitted with an emergency cord or other emergency assistance system. The cord must also be easily identifiable and reachable from the WC, and from the floor close to the WC.
If a cord is left tied up and out of reach, it can be potentially life threatening for toilet users. This fear is something Gem has encountered on multiple occasions.
“I don’t think people realise the importance of the red cords, this is because there isn’t enough awareness out there,” emphasises Gem.
“If people are non-disabled and have never experienced disability they just don’t know anything about them.”
Over the years Gem has ensured to speak out on the issue. When asked why the problem exists, she explains: “I’ve been told that cleaners tie them up when they are cleaning so that the alarms don’t go off, which I can understand, but they’ve got to remember to put them down once they’re done.”
After receiving the same responses over the years Gem reached breaking point.
“One excuse just made me so angry,” Gem recalls. “I was at this pub recently which was so accessible and big, I went into the disabled toilet and the cord was tied and tangled up.
“I thought this is the last straw, I went over and I politely said to one of workers the cord is tied up and she just said ‘yeah, the kids will pull on them’.”
And so, #LetItDangle was born.
“It’s always something I’ve looked at and being in my position with my following and sort of having a voice for disabled people, I have a platform to raise more awareness,” Gem explains.
Since Gem shared her first post about the campaign in April, it has been receiving positive attention. “It’s been shared many times on other people’s platforms and people are taking photos with the hashtag – it’s a snowball effect,” enthuses Gem.
Other social media users have been sharing their own experiences in response, posting photos with tied up emergency cords quoting #LetItDangle.
One of the best things is people who were previously unaware of the issue have also reached out. Gem says: “It hasn’t just been disabled people sharing this post, I’ve had a couple of big shares from lifestyle bloggers who said I hadn’t thought about this before.”
With the campaign, Gem hopes to raise awareness of improved training across the board: establishments with an accessible toilet should require staff to have the knowledge to keep users safe.
“If people with accessible toilets have awareness, there shouldn’t be an issue,” states Gem. “If the correct people are using the accessible toilet then pulling the chord by accident or as a prank shouldn’t happen.”
It’s time for establishments and staff to step up and make accessible toilets safe for the disabled community.
“The thing that scares me is what does it take for this issue to be recognised and taken seriously?” asks Gem. “Does someone have to be seriously hurt or worse to be taken seriously?
“I don’t want that, for something bad to happen before action is taken.”
You too can help raise awareness of the importance to have emergency cords loose. “Share, share, share,” urges Gem. “Take photos with #LetItDangle and explain why these chords need to be left dangling.”
This change can begin at ground zero – in the accessible toilets. Access review site Euan’s Guide provides printable cards that can be attached to emergency cords with information on why they should be left dangling.
By taking a simple step, establishments can make accessible toilets risk-free for the people that should be using them, with no excuses.