East Lothian schoolgirl takes disability sign fight to Commons

Grace Warnock has campaigned for the symbol to be used after a number of negative experiences using disabled facilities while living with Crohn's Disease.
Grace Warnock has campaigned for the symbol to be used after a number of negative experiences using disabled facilities while living with Crohn's Disease.
Have your say

A NEW sign marking public facilities safe for use by those living with ‘invisible’ disabilities has been unveiled in the House of Commons following a campaign by an East Lothian schoolgirl.

Grace Warnock was inspired to create ‘any disability’ signs for toilets and other public spaces after her own experience of Crohn’s Disease.

The Grace’s Sign campaign began after the 14-year-old began receiving negative comments from adults when she was seen using disabled bathrooms.

Preston Lodge High School pupil Grace said the goal was for the sign to be recognised by the British Standards Institute (BSI) as the accepted sign for accessible facilities, including toilets, parking spaces and assistance points.

The sign emphasises that not all disabilities are visible and aims to help them live their daily lives without the stigma of using disabled facilities.

It is hoped it can then be rolled out across the UK – replacing the wheelchair symbol commonly used on accessible toilet signs and blue badge parking permits.

Grace said: “The story of my sign came from my own experience of an adult questioning my use of an accessible toilet this ignorance drove me to design the first Grace’s Sign to educate others on invisible disabilities and to encourage everyone to have a heart.”

Grace has been supported in her campaign by Labour MP Martin Whitfield, who met with BSI chiefs and the UK Government’s Disability Minister Justin Tomlinson as part of a round-table event to discuss the proposed change on Tuesday.

He will now lead a Commons debate on accessibility challenges later today and said he hoped it would lead to “greater understanding” of the difficulties faced by those who feel they are unable to use the facilities.

Mr Whitfield said: “The impact of accessibility challenges faced by those living with ‘invisible’ disabilities has too often been overlooked or ignored.”

“However, thanks to the dedicated work of numerous charities and inspirational individual campaigners like Grace Warnock, the issue is finally starting to receive the attention it deserves.

“This debate will provide another opportunity for MPs to speak out on behalf of their constituents who live with hidden disabilities and describe the negative responses they can experience while going about their daily lives.”

He added: “I hope the debate will help lead to greater understanding about the daily challenges faced by so many people living with a wide range of conditions.”

The new symbol has been designed by StudioLR thanks to funding from the National Lottery. Lucy Richards, creative director at the firm said: “The wheelchair symbol is commonly used on accessible toilet signs, however, this symbol doesn’t represent the people with wide-ranging impairments who use these facilities.”

““We created the new Any Disability symbol because people with a hidden disability have the right to access facilities and services without having to explain their personal circumstances.”