Disabled Chesterfield man left ‘anxious’ and ‘frustrated’ after Matalan staff refuse to let him use store toilets

A disabled Chesterfield man was denied access to toilets at Matalan – despite explaining his condition to staff at the store.

Thursday, 30th June 2022, 8:59 pm

Chris Nicholson, from Chesterfield, was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease 20 years ago. It worsened to a point where he had to undergo emergency surgery and this left him with a permanent ileostomy – a bag attached to the abdomen to collect bodily waste.

He was recently visiting Matalan on Chatsworth Road with his wife and child when he suddenly needed to go to the toilet. He explained his disability to two members of staff, but was told that he was not allowed to use their facilities.

He said: “While visiting the store the need to use a toilet became a sudden and urgent requirement.

Chris called on Matalan to change their policy so those who need to access toilets in emergencies can do so.

“I approached one of the store staff and asked if there was a toilet to use, and she informed me there weren't any public toilets. I then explained that I am disabled, and have a stoma bag due to Crohn's Disease, after which she called her supervisor.

“The supervisor came to speak to me, and I asked the same question, again outlining the fact I have Crohn’s. She then just flatly refused to let me use the staff toilet, and said that I was not insured to use the facilities on site.”

Chris was then forced to leave his wife and child in the store to find a toilet elsewhere.

He has since spoken to Matalan about the incident, who told him they were not required to provide public toilets in their stores unless they include a coffee shop.

They reiterated that disabled people would not be allowed to use facilities in their stores due to security concerns – and added that if an accident occurred they would be in breach of their insurance.

Chris said: “I understand them not offering toilet facilities to the wider public, but they should for people who genuinely need them for medical reasons, whether it’s inflammatory bowel disease, pregnant women or anyone with a disability.

“They’re not going to mess it up, they’re not going to graffiti the walls or anything like that – they’re not asking to use the toilet just to kill ten minutes.

“This situation left me anxious for fear of disgracing myself in public, anxious as I had to leave the store to find alternative facilities and frustrated by the fact I had to return to my wife and child, who had already selected over £50 worth of items. I felt like I was paying for the privilege of poor customer service.

“If it was a case of me not being insured to use the facilities, I would like to see Matalan extend their policy to cover situations like this. If a disabled customer using store facilities is an inconvenience to the staff, try to imagine the situation which would have occurred had my stoma bag seal failed in the store.”

Chris said he felt there was an issue with people making assumptions based on his appearance – with his disability being a hidden one.

“I think part of it is not looking disabled – I’m 6 foot 3 and weigh 18 and a half stone. You wouldn’t have a clue that I was disabled, but you don’t need to be in a wheelchair to be considered disabled.

“I have a RADAR access key for disabled toilets that I use on a regular basis, but I do get some funny looks from people when I walk out because I don’t look disabled at all.

“I hate admitting I’m disabled – Crohn’s rarely stops me from doing anything, but sometimes you have to admit defeat and ask for a little bit of help or adjustments in some situations. It was frustrating not to get that in this case.

“I do want to thank the Junction pub – I went over there and the lass was lovely. I asked if I could use the toilet and she unlocked the pub to let me in – she was an absolute gem.”

Matalan did not respond to our request for comment.