Would you lie a loved one on a dirty public toilet floor?
Tony Clough wouldn’t, and his voluntary campaigning efforts to address this lack of toilet inclusion have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, with his appointment as a Member of the British Empire (MBE).
“I am humbled that my work has been recognised with such an honour,” he says. “I am just a carer, for my sister. I see myself as a normal bloke who just sends a few emails and makes a few calls. I don’t feel that I have done anything special. It is however a great privilege to be viewed by others in the same mould as Stephen Sutton.”
Tony, aged 38, has been campaigning for much of his adult life to encourage ‘the outside world’ to provide wheelchair accessible toilets that have space to accommodate both the user and their carer, plus a changing bench and hoist - a Changing Places toilet as it is now known.
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and now living in Lichfield, his work began after seeing his mother Margaret struggle to meet his severely disabled sister Julie’s toilet needs when they were away from home; it has continued even while he was personally battling through the diagnosis and subsequent treatment for a brain tumour.
Now, over 840 Changing Places are open across the UK, enabling potentially up to 5 million people with special needs and disabilities to be able to do everyday, normal things whilst not having to think about how and where they can use the toilet in a dignified fashion; something that able bodied people take for granted.
“Seeing Mum and Julie struggle on a daily basis to do even a weekly food shop, or go anywhere for more than an hour or two, inspires me to keep campaigning. Hopefully, I can use the honour to help raise awareness, open more doors, and change the law so that every public building or venue has a wheelchair-accessible toilet, adult-sized changing bench and hoist,” says Tony. “I’d at least like them, as a sports fan, in all sports stadia, and continue to get them in every airport, motorway service station, supermarkets….”
Comments fellow campaigner Martin Emery,” Tony Clough has been campaigning for Changing Places since the idea was first put out there. In that time Tony has contacted countless companies. He has been instrumental in the success of campaigns, including my own campaign to get Changing Places at Old Trafford.
Tony was the first person to ask Manchester United for these facilities, and when he saw my campaign sent details of the emails he had sent over the last 3 years. Those emails, and the United Discriminate campaign got the changes made, and a Changing Places facility is now in place at Old Trafford.
Tony is one of those guys, that says I can do that, and will. He never takes no for an answer, and knows a fob off when he is sent one. Changing Places wouldn’t be where it is today without Tony.”
Adds Sarah Brisdion, “Tony is an inspiration to me and so many other campaigners. He has worked tirelessly in so many sectors to raise awareness of the issues that families like mine face and has been instrumental in the installation of many Changing Places facilities. Tony is proof that we should never give up trying. Whenever I feel downhearted, I look at what he has achieved and carry on fighting.”