No Hope of Rescue

No Hope of Rescue brings together a selection of photographs of accessible toilets in hospitals, social services centres, motorway service stations, universities and colleges, museums, airports, arts centres and community centres — anywhere that I have needed to use the toilet in the past couple of years.

All have one thing in common: their emergency alarm systems have been sabotaged by human interference — by cleaners, and by non-disabled people using the facilities. Either the emergency pull cords have been twisted back around the plumbing, or the cords have been cut or tied off at head height or above. More than nine out of ten of the accessible toilets that I have used have been sabotaged in this way.

Much of this interference stems from ignorance of the alarms’ function, which is to allow someone who has fallen to the floor to summon help. The cord must therefore be at ground height in order to be accessible. The sabotaging of the alarm systems in this way turns what would otherwise be a minor incident into a life-threatening emergency.

More generally, No Hope of Rescue explores human interference in emergency systems and culturally induced concepts of rescue. It looks at the way in which people do not simply “fall through holes in safety nets”, but often fall through holes which have been deliberately cut open and abandoned, leaving only the illusion of rescue. And it asks questions about the way in which women and disabled people in particular are socialised to believe in the concept of rescue, rather than being brought up to rescue ourselves.

No Hope of Rescue is dedicated to the memory of Emma Humphreys. Emma was a survivor who was failed by every system that was supposed to protect her. Emma’s life story, The Map of My Life, containing extracts from her diaries, poems and other writings, is published by Astraia Press at £14.99.

Paper, cord and aluminium. Photography sponsored by Fujifilm.

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