Part of everyday life is popping down to the shops, taking a trip into town, or visiting somewhere special for the day – or rather, it is if you are able.
If you need a carer to help you do something as basic as go to the loo, you know how these things are difficult, often nigh impossible; you feel trapped in your home.
If you do go out, the toilet often isn’t big enough for you, your carer and your wheelchair, so you have to go home before you need the loo, or be double-padded. Or you have to lie on the floor, sometimes in full view of other users, whilst a pad is changed. It is unhygienic, undignified, for you and your carer(s).
Changing Places toilets change that. In essence, they are “bigger and better” wheelchair-accessible toilets; as well as everything you would expect to find in a standard wheelchair-accessible toilet, a Changing Place has more space- at least 12m2- plus an adult-sized changing bench and a hoist. So there is room for you, your carer(s) to deal with your personal hygiene needs in an appropriate environment, with appropriate equipment. You and they can relax and enjoy your time out.
The Changing Places campaign- championed by Mencap and a consortium of associated charities, and the main supplier/installer of the facilities – both have fully-searchable maps on their websites enabling you to check where the toilets are, in your area and if you’re planning a trip out. The maps give you useful user information too, including opening times and how the facility is accessed (eg RADAR key). Social media too is useful, with a couple of pages on Facebook dedicated to users of Changing Places.
So far there are some 700 Changing Places toilets across the country. They are in shopping centres, leisure centres, tourist attractions, motorway services, transport hubs etc…a few, but not enough, are in hospitals, supermarkets. I say not enough, because these specific locations are ones visited locally and regularly, so they, probably more than anywhere else, need to be accessible. Why do I say that? Of the 11million registered disabled people in the UK, over 90% suffer from a disability that affects their mobility; disabled people make up 1/3rd of NHS users.
And at the moment, the legal requirement is nebulous: under Building Regulations, it is ‘desirable’ to include one, but not ‘essential’. The Equality Act requires ‘service providers’ to make “reasonable” adjustments (including to the built environment) that would otherwise place a disabled person at a “substantial disadvantage”. I would maintain having to lie on a toilet floor to be changed puts someone at a substantial disadvantage, and that in reality is the alternative if there is no Changing Place! The Government’s own guidelines on Equality Act implementation do advise venues to take these steps BEFORE someone experiences that difficulty.
So, until there is a firm legal requirement, ‘people power’ is the way ahead. Currently, not enough people know about Changing Places, so the more the word is spread, the more existing ones are used, which will enable more to be opened across the country….it’s a Catch 22: because people don’t know about them, they often don’t get used, so it can be hard to persuade local councils and other multiple location providers to install further ones. But now YOU know about them, so use them, spread the word about them, and get Britain accessible for all– right through to the loos!
Blog post supplied by Robin Tuffley, Clos-o-Mat marketing manager