Cork Airport and Olympic hopeful and former world champion kickboxer, Caradh O’Donovan, have announced their support for Travel with IBDIreland, a collaborative campaign between the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease (ISCC) and Takeda Products Ireland Ltd. The campaign is urging Irish airports, rail stations and service stations to act by listening to the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) community and adopting accessible toilet signage highlighting that not every disability is visible.
Since the beginning of May 2018, Travel with IBD Ireland has received superb support from the IBD community, with more than 5,600 emails sent to Irish travel hubs calling for the adoption of accessible toilet signage. Cork Airport is the first major travel hub in Ireland to implement the new signage.
Former world champion kickboxer Caradh, who is hoping to represent Ireland in karate at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, is one of an estimated 40,000 people in Ireland living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of IBD. For many people living with these conditions, the sudden and uncontrollable need to use a toilet is an especially challenging and recognised medical symptom.
Many people also have stoma bags and need extra space or privacy to change these comfortably. Unfortunately, when using accessible toilets, many living with IBD – and other ‘invisible’ disabilities – have been unfairly criticised and judged because others perceive them to look well and therefore not be entitled to use these facilities.
Caradh, who is 34-years-old and from Co Sligo, said: “I travel a lot to compete in different championships in Ireland and around the world. When I urgently need to use a bathroom, I will search out a disabled facility, but using these toilets can be very intimidating – people give you looks that could kill because you don’t look like you have a disability. It’s not an occasional thing, it happens a lot.”
Travel with IBD Ireland aims to reduce the stigma that those living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis or other invisible disabilities face when using accessible toilets and give them more confidence to travel.
“Cork Airport, as one of the world’s friendliest airports, is extremely conscious that the way an airport treats its disabled passengers is one of the most important qualities by which they are judged,” said Deirdre O’Donovan, Cork Airport’s Operations and Safety Manager. “We are delighted to be playing a role in highlighting the need for airports to recognise, not just passengers with obvious needs, but also those of our guests with hidden disabilities.”
Following the adoption of the signage at Cork Airport, the ISCC and Takeda Products Ireland will continue to engage with other major Irish travel hubs to encourage them to update their accessible toilet signage.
Fergal Troy, who is living with ulcerative colitis and is an ISCC Board member, said: “The ISCC members and the wider IBD community have been instrumental in making this campaign so successful. Without their support we would not have been able to send the 5,600 emails to the travel hub management and provoke the conversation around changing toilet signage. Travel with IBD Ireland has really resonated with the IBD community and highlighted the importance that such a small change in signage can make in helping to reduce stigma that our members face on a daily basis.”
Travel with IBD Ireland follows a hugely successful campaign last year by Crohn’s and Colitis UK, which called on UK travel hubs to implement new accessible toilet signage. The campaign has resulted in 23 out of 26 major travel hubs in the UK signing up to adopt the signage.
The campaign was developed and funded by pharmaceutical company Takeda Products Ireland Ltd, one of the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease’s corporate partners. You can find out more about the campaign