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Liz Carr

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Liz is a crip activist and actor, now trying to gain experience as a stand-up comedian. Originally from the North West, she recently moved to London, lured by the bright lights and the promise of fame and fortune. She's still waiting.

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The bathroom blues

This has been a month of endings; my personal assistant of 8 years has left to go to university, my relatives have emigrated to Australia and at last, the four year battle to have my bathroom made accessible is over. All three of these events have caused me to shed a tear but it’s the latter which has had me reaching for the tissues on a daily basis.
Liz Carr's old bathroom
Ever since I moved into this flat in 2005, the bathroom has been less than ideal for my particular needs. As well as the damp on the walls, the rusty radiator and the flooring coming up at the edges, in order to use the toilet, I've had to sit on an ancient commode seat with a hand made sponge cushion.

Aesthetically, it didn’t fare much better. The tall ceilinged room was decorated from top to bottom in mouldy white tiles. Every time I went in there I felt as though I should be wearing a hospital gown and having my PA check on my bowel movements. It really was in desperate need of a makeover.

For the past four years, therefore, I have been wheeling back and forth between Social Services, the Local Authority and my landlord in an effort to make it happen.

In that time, I’ve had umpteen assessments from umpteen occupational therapists (OT’s) to prove that I require a wheel in shower, a toilet of a certain height and a few grab rails here and there.

I’ve had bureaucrats in suits visit me to discuss the funding and on top of that, my bathroom has been regularly surveyed by men in hard hats who always seem to just tap on the walls, shake their heads and then scribble down their findings on a clipboard.
Liz Carr looking impatient in her bathroom
But then, out of the blue, on a Tuesday morning in January, I received a phone call telling me that everything had been agreed. My bathroom was finally going to be renovated.

"When will the work begin?" I asked, assuming it would be in a few weeks time. "How about tomorrow?" they said.

After years of inactivity, it was all go, and, in hindsight, nothing could ever have prepared me for the chaos that was about to enter my life. Trev, the workman, turned up at 7am the next day. He said that he would be starting at that time every morning, so I lied and told him that it took my ‘carer’ two hours to get me up. From then on he worked from 9-3, during which he took regular breaks to drink vast quantities of strong tea with just a drop of milk and two sugars.

Trev was with me for 23 days. He originally said the job would take ten, but once you add the weekends, the days off for new tattoos, swine flu and funerals...

On day one, he removed the hand basin, the shower and the flooring. For the next three weeks, the only place I could wash was in the kitchen sink. After all these years in the planning, no one had even considered where I might go to take an accessible shower whilst my own was out of action.

For the majority of the time, I had to make do with wet wipes, Fabreeze and a series of pomanders about my person to keep the nasty niffs at bay. it was only the vision of my dream bathroom kept me going. All I ever wanted was a warm, colourful and accessible bathroom that looked good.

Since my flat is owned by the Housing Association, however, their specification was to get the job done as cheaply as possible by replacing the white tiles with the same, refitting the rusty radiator and using plain white paint. When they put in an electric shower, they ran the wires visibly across the ceiling rather than hiding them because to do so would have cost more.
Liz Carr beside her new sink
And then there was the loo. My OT organized for a salesman to come and demonstrate one which was all singing and dancing, spurting water and then warm air onto your bits to clean and dry them. He placed a model of this particular toilet in the middle of my living room and the OT lowered me onto its uncomfortable porcelain throne. It was a surreal experience - and a pointless one too. With my unbending body, the flush of water that was meant to clean my bottom, washed my face instead.

Determined not to be left with a ‘special needs’ bathroom, I went out and bought some large marble tiles, some chrome grab rails and a pot of olive green paint, insisting that Trev use these, rather than the standard issue materials.

It surprised me that he worked for a company who specialised in disability adaptations because when Trev was finished, the mirror hung 5 foot high and out of my reach, the sink plug needed super human strength to insert and the light switch swung tantalisingly from my grasp. I wrote yet another e-mail of complaint and my PA put the kettle on.
Liz Carr's new bathroom
After 23 long days, Trev finally packed up his kit and left for his next job. The bathroom still needs some work - the toilet is too low, the sink is too high and the radiator is leaking - but at least the finishing line is now in sight.

At last, an ending to look forward to...


    • 1. At 11:03am on 09 Mar 2011, Crippled Monkey wrote:

      Looks much posher than my bathroom!
      Lucky you!!!
      All the best,

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    • 2. At 11:55am on 10 Mar 2011, MaryDHarrison wrote:

      I had a new kitchen and bathroom done last year and I'm still recovering from the trauma! The stress of having builders in is unimaginable what with the DFG application, battles with OTs who always think they know best, the MESS once the work starts and as Liz says trying to keep clean and fragrant! And the stress of trying to get things right first time.

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    • 3. At 12:54pm on 10 Mar 2011, Peter aka Sociable wrote:

      Seems to be the "Standard" i.e. a four year wait for accessible bathrooms Liz.

      My first OT referral was back in 2007, 2008 saw my recommended for an adapted bathroom and 2009 saw me reach the trop of the waiting list for the work to be done.

      2009 the team of suited and toe-tector booted officials and OT and workmen arrive and take one look at the bathroom, one look at me and one look at the rest of my flat and come to the inescapable conclusion I need a tad more than just an electric shower and that the existance of a brick wall about 4 feet directly in front of my front and only door precludes a ramp and even if it didn't the rest of my flat was wheelchair unfriendly at best.

      A full year later and my request to bew rehoused endorsed by all of the above and I'm not even on the register for the new choice based letting scheme.

      Fast forward another year and after a battle to prove yet ahgain I needed an extra room for a carer a property is made available and I sign the new tenancy agreement having been assured the adaptations will be carried out before I move in.

      The day I pick up the keys I finally get to see the beautiful new wet-room only to find the loo is too low as is the shower seat and just for good measure the loo actually sticks out across the doorway thgus restricting the access to about 18 inches wide.

      To save time I redesign the layout and pass this on to the adaptations team who then have to rip everything out and start again delaying my moving in another month but I was at least "Home for Christmas" 2010 (just).

      Three months on and I'm still awaiting the grabrails to be put in the right places, according to my detailed plan, and as dirercted by the latest OT visit just last week.

      Can't help being reminded of the old song "Twas on the Monday morning that the disability adaptations team came to call" or words to that effect.

      Oh and yes I've shed more than a few tears during this time and even pi$$ed myself laughing a few times too at the shere stupidity and wasted time, effort and money wasted by not having listened to the one person who knew exactly what my needs were which is, of course, myself.

      Happy showering and peeing in comfort Liz I truly know exactly how you feel. LOL

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    • 4. At 1:02pm on 19 Mar 2011, kären kidd wrote:

      Hi Liz,
      We met once at an Putting people first event in Oakham leic, You made the day much easier to get through.
      I pleased you got your bathroom sorted not exactly perfect for you needs but much better than what you had previously.
      Glad to see you did not give up as many others do.
      After 5 yrs I'm at the 3 estimates stage,for access outside at the back of the bungalow. A ramp would be too expensive so they have had to be creative, french doors in lounge out onto a raised decking 5metres square,
      Almost there I have all the messy stuff to come but it will be worth.

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    • 5. At 8:27pm on 21 Mar 2011, IceDragon wrote:

      I waited over 8 years to move from a quite inaccessible flat (even though it was ground floor) to an 'adapted' bungalow which finally happened for me over 2 years ago.
      This one has a roll-in-bathroom but no shower-seat, a quite high sink but this is ok for my hubby and daughter so no stooping for them, a confusing set up of the doors but ramps front and rear of bungalow small garden (I can manage!).
      My only prob is the kitchen; I have to 'stand' in there as the cupboards are too high and so is the sink plus nowhere to put my legs under the sink etc.
      hope it gets sorted out for you Liz x

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    • 6. At 00:38am on 22 Mar 2011, auntieCtheM wrote:

      Why do builders/plumbers electricians etc always think that they know best / they have better taste than anyone else, and always try to get you to have what they like. What suits me and my pocket has to be fought for really, really hard. It is my money and my bathroom, dammit.

      As you can see, I am just starting to have work done on my house paid for by me!

      Oh yes, and their standards of work are never the same as mine, even though I explain exactly what is needed beforehand.

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    • 7. At 00:18am on 05 Apr 2011, Sharon wrote:

      I am not disabled myself, but have had a close relative that was in a wheelchair all of her life and a close friend who had a tumour at 21 years old that suddenly had these same problems. I have to say, the trauma you have all been through touched my heart, but your humour made me laugh. Look on the bright side of life is excellent. My friend never got any help as she was never advised. She suffers with her balance and required a shower seat to accomodate her bathroom needs but didnt have an idea where she would purchase one from. What I am intrigued to know is, how do you know what you are entitled to? Who advises you? Do you have to be in council/housing assocation accomodation? Is is grant aided? If you are not grant aided, where do you start if you are suddenly become disabled. Your comments on this matter would be very much appreciated. As for the OT, great to have a degree but where is the common sense lol.

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