The BBC newsreader George Aligayah is telling of his own diagnosis and treatment to support the charity Bowel Cancer UK as it promotes Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
Aligiyah has recorded a series of podcasts in which he interviews supporters of the charity and leading experts on the disease as well as other people who are living with bowel cancer.
His comments that he feels guilty at having to use disabled toilets while having no visible disability will strike a chord with many people who have hidden disabilities and, separately, Crohn’s & Colitis UK have launched the third phase of their “Not Every Disability is Visible” campaign.
Aligayah, who has stage four bowel cancer, said he used disabled loos in the past because of having a stoma bag attached to his stomach. He revealed that when disabled people saw him using the toilets he would feel the need to “apologise and explain”.
He also spoke of adjusting his clothes and changing his outfits to accommodate the bag, including letting his suits out and wearing braces. He added: “I was always looking around at my colleagues and thinking, ‘Can they smell anything, can they hear anything?”‘
Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We’re so incredibly grateful to George for hosting our first series of podcasts to raise awareness of the disease during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
“Around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer. But these podcasts emphasise that it doesn’t just impact the person diagnosed. It affects families, friends and colleagues, doctors and nurses, scientists and researchers. That’s millions of people right across the UK. We want everyone affected by bowel cancer to come together and take action to help create a future where nobody dies of the disease.”
Crohn’s & Colitis UK is calling for companies to install new signs on disabled toilets to explain that not all disabilities are visible.
It says people with such “invisible disabilities” are subjected to discrimination for using facilities they urgently need, and it is targeting 15 of the UK’s largest restaurant and pub chains.
A survey conducted by the charity reveals that 93 per cent of the public who challenge a healthy-looking person for using an accessible toilet think they are “standing up” for the rights of disabled people or that it’s “not fair” on others, 61 per cent of negative incidents experienced by people with Crohn’s or Colitis for using accessible toilets have involved verbal and/or physical abuse, and 81 per cent of people with Crohn’s or Colitis think that the public have little understanding of these conditions and are quick to judge those living with them.
Sarah Sleet, CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “These signs make a real difference to people living with Crohn’s or Colitis. We know that if the public better understand the devastating symptoms of these diseases, they will be more considerate and supportive of people who feel too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about them. It is vital that everyone gets involved in the campaign to help increase understanding of the true impact of Crohn’s and Colitis.”