Disability hygiene and the environment. #EarthDay

A little thought about environmental problem is the amount of plastic and wood pulp waste that goes into essential continence and disability related hygiene products.

Two of the biggest culprits are wipes and continence pads. For many disabled people, you can not help but use these products.

Yet most carry information that they are not biodegradable/ recyclable or can’t be macerated. Millions of waterproof pull ups, chair and bed pads and generic flat pads are filling up land fill. Not only does the plastic sit there for years but the wood pulp that is often used as a filler may be using none sustainable wood sources and some contain a chemical gel to retain moisture. Those that use cotton can be hugely expensive and how do you know where the cotton was from. The last thing I want to contribute to is cotton trade enslavement.

We hear about baby nappy waste and sanitary products … but I can’t find any health companies who make products that promotes a healthier planet in the continence market.

I feel bad that I contribute over 200 chair pads and hundreds of wipes (for body washing) each year. None are biodegradable etc. The other thing is packaging – I used to buy packs of 40 chair pads in one plastic wrapper. Then the manufacturers switched to individually packing bundles of 15. The amount of plastic has significantly increased rather than decreased. This is crazy.

So how can disabled people go about damage limitation?

Well, washable continence products are not that useful – it’s not just a teaspoon of fluid or waste you may need to retain! Sanitary towel substitutes using fabric might be fine for periods but not urine or faeces. Plus, washing things constantly at high temperatures is not exactly earth friendly neither and the chemical residues from washing liquids and perfumes can damage already injured skin in those most sensitive areas.

Instead of wipes (for generic washing) I’ve switched to bamboo ‘nappy’ liners. Sadly though they are 5x the price of incontinence/body wipes and with the cost of living already being so high for disabled people, this is not always financially viable. Not many people understand that some disabled people can not use flannels/fabric cloths because of painful, sensitive or damaged skin. It’s another disability related cost we have to soak up.

Instead of wipes or toilet roll after using the loo, I have a wash/dry bidet so that’s good. It could be argued that water usage goes up but I think it’s better overall (both for health , comfort and avoiding paper/wipes).

So … how do you feel about these issues?

Dignity and Menstruation

It’s world menstrual hygiene day on May 28th.

Disabled people can be completely overlooked when it comes to product design, access to sanitary products and toilet facilities. People may even assume disabled women and trans men for example don’t menstruate. Trust me – most of us do – if we ovulate then we have a menstrual cycle – and our health and dignity is often compromised because of so little understanding and awareness

My experiences as a wheelchair user with personal assistance.

  • Do male carers and spouses know how to shop for sanitary products and how to attach them in the right place !! My husband entered an entirely new world that he never thought would happen.
  • How do you hoist someone from bed to bathroom where clothing has already been removed ready for sitting on the loo – when it’s the dreaded day one and an almighty flood is is occurring!
  • Accessible toilets may not have sanitary product dispensers.
  • Do you know how fiddly it is to remove the backing strips from towels and place them in your knickers if you have arthritis or little finger dexterity or spasms?
  • What do you do when there are no accessible toilets to freshen up and change a towel etc?
  • Extra washing – extra time and cost.
  • Have you ever tried to wipe someone else’s bum when menstruating without getting in a mess?
  • Period cramps can be extra painful when your impairment already causes pain in your legs, back pelvic area etc.
  • Wearing pads can cause pressure sores on delicate skin for wheelchair users and risks higher contact allergies arising from prolonged sitting.
  • Blood in the toilet can be mistaken by carers to be ‘just period related’ – when in fact it could be more serious. Disabled women can be at risk of missing out on important health checks.

Menstrual Hygiene Day article about disabled people.

For people with learning difficulties – it can raise other issues.

This is a very insightful blog everyone should read – about how people with learning difficulties manage and understand menstruation. It highlights so many important elements – I wonder how many health care professionals, carers and assistants have training about supporting people menstruating with dignity and respect?

Link to an article about managing menstruation when you have a learning difficulty

How does society’s attitude to menstruation and hygiene make you feel as a disabled person?

We want to hear about your continence, hygiene or accessible toilet related products

We’d love to hear about specific, innovative products that might promote dignity and inclusion for disabled people within the areas of accessing the toilet, personal hygiene, continence etc.

  • No charge – this project is run by volunteers and our ‘contributors’ are all part of the project! You would be a volunteer contributor (Donations and membership is always welcome to support the project.
  • Stories can include links to video, audio or send us photographs to highlight your product.
  • Stories should be 300 words or less, provide a company logo, product picture and short company biography (3-4 sentences for example).
  • Tell us why your product is unique, what sort of people might benefit and how people can get more information.
  • We will let you know which week your information will come out (or ask us if a particular week is free if you need a specific promotional time)
  • We love exclusives and sneak peaks – so if you have a great product to reveal, do consider us! We also love to review products for readers – so let us know if this interests you.

Government consults on mandatory Changing Places

The government is undergoing a public consultation (part 1) providing the finer details of including Changing Places toilets in the Building Regulations (Document M, Sanitation).

Visit: Changing Places (England) Consultation

You can have your say on issues such as:

  • Types of buildings
  • Trigger values eg cinemas would be based on x number of seats, others triggered by footfall or space.
  • Size and equipment provided
  • Costs to businesses
  • Equality impact assessment of provision.

Full details are contained in the pdf document provided on the consultation page. You can participate by email or online.