How many of us out there blithely go off to the public disabled toilets in train stations, shopping centres, restaurants and other places? How many of us assume that were we to fall or otherwise need assistance we could pull the red alarm cord, the light would go on and the bell would buzz incessantly and that help would come?
I've seen people respond to the disabled loo alarms in The Oracle in Reading (shopping centre) and I assumed it happened in most places.
I'm shocked, sickened, and even a little scared that it doesn't seem to be the case
I was waiting for a friend at London Waterloo train station yesterday. Figured I'd pop to the loo. There was a lady and who I assume to be her daughter waiting to use the disabled loo - and the red alarm light was on accompanied by the buzzer. They were wondering what was taking so long and I pointed out the alarm was going off (it really could have done with being much louder). The other lady said she would make sure a staff member responded to that and I returned to my spot by Burger King to wait for Trudi. I thought the situation was sorted out.
15 mins later I've heard from Trudi that the bus was diverted and she's gonna be a while. Thought I'd see if I could get in the loo now. The other lady wasn't there but the alarm was still going off - I just assumed it was broken or they didn't know how to turn it off (wouldn't be that unusual). Fished out my RADAR key and started unlocking the door. A male voice called out from inside and i went "sorry!" and sat and waited.
Few minutes passed and I'm beginning to get concerned, debating knocking on the door to check if the persons ok but not sure I should. The door opens partway and there's a man lying on the floor. He looked at me and begged me to go get him some help - he'd collapsed or fallen or some such and needed help - he told me that he had pulled the alarm cord.
He had been on the floor for an hour by the time he asked me to go find him some help. And either the staff had already been told and not bothered or the other lady didn't report it.
I left and went to find a member of staff, bumping into Trudi on the way and telling her the situation. Stopped a guy in a uniform with a badge which said "passenger assistance"
he told me repeatedly where there was another disabled loo. Couldn't see to grasp that we weren't worried about that but about the fact that one of my people was in trouble. Eventually he got it.
"it's not my job, it's not my problem" and off he walked.
We grabbed another member of staff and eventually made him understand. It was a struggled but he did say he would deal with it - we saw him go off to the disabled loo and we left. On to Italian for lunch, a visit to a bookshop, a wander through London and some of it's sights and then the theatre.
I pray that he actually did go help that man. On the way back to the station we were jokingly wondering if the poor guy was still on the floor. I wish we'd gone to check; I wish we'd stayed that morning to be sure they did help him.
It wasn't the only disability related drama I had yesterday.
But compared to the guy on the floor in waterloo my drama was really put in perspective.