Colostomy UK’s stoma aware campaign

08 September 2023
Colostomy UK

Colostomy UK introduces their awareness campaign and how they’re trying to make facilities better for ostomates

Colostomy UK’s Stoma Aware campaign is all about tackling the stigma that surrounds having a stoma. This stigma is borne of ignorance. Ask a person on the street what a stoma is and nine times out of ten you’ll get a blank face. Those that do know, often associate it with old people - ‘it was the reason why Grandma used to smell’, for example. Of course, I’m generalising here, but you get the picture. Because of this ignorance, life as an ostomate can be more challenging than it needs to be. Let’s take public toilets as an example. Just finding one that is suitable to do a bag change can be a problem. Further, if you use an accessible toilet, you might have to face comments and stares from strangers upon exiting.

What are we doing to tackle the stigma?

We believe that the more people who know what a stoma is and understand the challenges that people with stomas face, the easier it will be for ostomates to go about their daily lives. But our Stoma Aware campaign isn’t just about spreading awareness, it’s also about engaging with businesses, organisations and policymakers to bring about change. This involves everything from advising on infrastructure and policy, to providing Stoma Aware training to customer-facing staff. Participants leave the latter knowing what a stoma is and with an appreciation of the practical and emotional needs ostomates have.
The provision of stoma-friendly public toilets is another key part of our campaign. We know all too well how being able to find a toilet when you are out and about can make the difference between a good and a bad day. In fact, it is so important that a lack of accessible facilities can actually stop some ostomates from going out. In the worst cases, it can lead to social isolation.

In our recent Stoma Aware survey, 62% of respondents said that a lack of stoma-friendly accessible toilet facilities impacts their daily life, while 48% thought more stoma-friendly toilets would make life easier for them.

So what is a stoma-friendly toilet?

Our guidelines set out the following requirements to ensure toilet facilities are Stoma-friendly.


  • Hook on the door: to hang clothing, handbags and luggage while changing stoma bags. This provides more space in the cubicle. One hook at a height where items will not touch the floor is recommended. British Standards suggest two clothes hooks, one at 1050 mm and the other at 1400mm above the floor. The hook should
    be plasticShelf space: to enable ostomates to spread out their items easily and avoid having to use unsanitary surfaces. British Standards suggest a flat-topped close-coupled cistern providing a stoma-changing surface. For high- or low-level cisterns a separate stoma changing shelf 125 mm to 150 mm deep and preferably 400 mm wide, with its surface 950 mm above floor level, should be provided. When adding a shelf, ensure that it is easily accessible and a person can stand in front of the shelf
  • Mirror: to enable users to see their stoma while changing their appliances
  • Disposal bin in every cubicle: to avoid embarrassment for men and women having to dispose of their stoma bag in public view.


  • Accessible #stomafriendly toilet signage: to highlight the right of ostomates to use the toilet. Reduces the risk of hostility for ostomates when using an accessible toilet. We offer free-of-charge stickers
  • Accessories: ensure toilet roll, paper towels, handwash and other items are well-stocked.

A stoma-friendly toilet 

Can you help us make the UK’s toilets stoma-friendly?

Butlins, Manchester United, Stoke City, Lords Cricket ground, West Bromwich Albion, Tranmere Rovers, Milton Keynes Dons, Sainsbury’s, The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham, INTU Shopping centres, The LGBT Foundation, The Grand Opera House Belfast, West Yorkshire Police, Tesco, The Grosvenor Chester, the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, BUPA…

These are just some of the organisations that have made their accessible toilets Stoma Friendly, but there are so many more businesses, local councils and organisations that we still need to bring on board.

We’re working with several partners to encourage businesses of all sizes to adopt our guidelines. This includes Level Playing Field which campaign to make sports stadiums more accessible for disabled supporters and AccessAble, which provides listings of accessible facilities.

Moving forward, we are also engaging with policy and decision-makers in government and the private sector to help push toilets higher up the agenda both nationally and in local communities.

We want our campaign to be a catalyst for change but we need your help.

We’ve created a series of tools that you can use to present to councils, businesses and organisations in your area to encourage them to make their facilities Stoma Friendly. These include an introductory letter you can print off, our Stoma Friendly toilet guidelines and a Stoma Aware poster. They can be downloaded from our website or If you’d like us to send you hard copies email

We’ve started to build some great momentum but know that there’s so much more to do. If everyone reading this article convinced one organisation to become Stoma Friendly that would be a great leap forward on our journey!

Colostomy UK: A UK charity that gives comprehensive information about living with a stoma