Mother at her wits’ end: “My daughter doesn’t go out anymore because there is nowhere where she can pee”

Vera Vervoort from Oud-Turnhout (Antwerp Province) is fed up with the lack of public toilets in Flanders. Compared with countries such as Ireland, Jersey and the UK, public convivences are very few and far between in Flanders. Those of us that need the toilet when we are out generally have to use the facilities in a bar or café. However, with the lockdown restrictions this is currently not possible. 

This leaves many with no alternative but to go for a pee behind a bush. Ms Vervoort told VRT Radio 2’s consumer affairs programme ‘De inspecteur’ that the lack of public toilets is an issue that impacts her in her daily life. 

She has a daughter that is autistic and also suffers from rheumatism. During the lockdown they often go out for walks with Vera pushing her daughter in her wheelchair as this is one of the few enjoyable things that they are able to do. However, “My daughter is terrified of peeing her pants and I am unable to reassure her because in our municipality, Oud-Turnhout, there are no public toilets that are open”.

She adds that it is unacceptable that her daughter would not be able to go to the toilet anywhere if she needed to. "I am certainly not the only person that is confronted with this problem. In the nature reserve where we walk, I constantly see people disappear behind the bushes. I have every understanding for this because if my daughter could stoop, we would do the same”. 

App of little or no use

Even the HogeNood app that lists publicly accessible lavatories is no use to Vera and her daughter as it lists no such facilities in Oud Turnhout. Moreover, in other places such as Mechelen where Vera’s daughter often goes on weekdays many of the toilets listed are closed due to the corona measures. 

The app relies on information given to it by the public and Vera Vervoort hopes that people across Flanders will provide it with the details of toilet facilities that are open to the public in their areas. 

HogeNood accepts that there are still a lot of blind spots, but would rather that municipalities in Flanders (as has been the case in The Netherlands) provide it with information on publicly accessible WCs rather than that be inundated by thousands of posts from individual members of the public. 

Some areas such as Bruges and Roeselare (both West Flanders) are already well-covered by the app. 

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