Caroline Richards, whose Facebook post about the realities of having a colostomy bag went viral / Caroline Richards/Colostomy Association

People who use colostomy bags can feel reluctant to leave the house because of fears they will not find adequate toilet facilites in public places 

A mother whose Facebook photo showing how she was forced to change her colostomy bag on the floor due to a lack of facilities was shared thousands of times is leading calls for organisations to make toilets more accessible for people with stomas. 

Caroline Richards, a 36-year-old from South Wales, is part of an emerging movement on social media to raise awareness about the struggle of living with a stoma.

A stoma is an opening made on the side of abdomen through which the colon is diverted so that bodily waste can pass into a "stoma" bag. The most common causes for a stoma include bowel cancer, Crohn’s and Colitis and other bowel and bladder dysfunctions.

​An estimated 1 in 500 people in the UK live with a stoma, and such conditions can affect a person of any age. 

While the procedure can be life-saving, changing the waste bag in public can be distressing if basic provisions aren’t available. 

Ms Richards is helping leading stoma charity the Colostomy Association call for public and private organisations, from council buildings to coffee shops, to put simple measures in place to help people with stomas - who often call themselves "ostomates".

These include a hook on the door to hang up clothes while the stoma bag is being changed, as well as a surface on which to organise items needed to change the bag. 

Always having a disposal bin in a toilet is also important, as this saves individuals from having to dispose of their used stoma bag in public view. 

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A photo Caroline Richards shared on Facebook to show the lack of facilities for people with a stoma. (Caroline Richards/Colostomy Association)

Currently, people stomas are discouraged from leaving their homes as they fear they will not find the toilet facilities that they need, according to the charity. 

The charity aims to create a directory of businesses and attractions across the UK that are stoma-friendly, so individuals know where they can easily change their bag.

Ms Richards said: "I struggle to find a level space where I can put the various things I need to use in order to change my bag.

"I have often had to change my colostomy bag whilst kneeling on a toilet floor. This experience leaves me very upset and often very fearful of going out as my first thought would be about the toilet facilities and what they are like. 

"I feel that there needs to be more awareness around the different people who actually need to use a disabled toilet."

A spokesman for the Colostomy Association said: "Despite 1 in 500 people in the UK living with a stoma, it can be an extremely isolating condition. The lack of adequate toilet facilities limits many people from being able to go out, enjoy themselves and live a full life.

"We are currently in discussions with many national and local organisations interested in making their toilets accessible to people with a stoma. We are calling on for businesses across the UK to join our campaign and improve the lives of thousands of adults and children across the UK."

The spokesman added that any organisations interested in making their loos more stoma-friendly are encouraged to contact the Colostomy Association on 0118 939 1537 to find out what changes they could make.

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