Everyone should have access to a toilet when out and about, but for some of the 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, this isn’t a reality. Changing Places reveal the need for more facilities and the new legislation making a difference.
Having access to a Changing Places toilet can be the difference between someone feeling able to leave the house or feeling stuck inside.
Despite this, there are still just over 1,500 facilities throughout the UK. A Changing Places toilet is a specialist facility for people who have a disability and additional needs, they include equipment like a ceiling hoist and track, changing bed and a toilet that has space for transfers on both sides.
The facilities are more than an accessible toilet. Changing Places allow space for multiple people or carers, and are a necessity for a portion of the disabled community.
Karen Hoe is a Changing Places development officer at Muscular Dystrophy UK, part of the Changing Places Consortium, she says: “It’s a basic dignity and human right for many people that aren’t able to go out if there isn’t an accessible Changing Places toilet.
“You can’t imagine what it’s like if people go out and there’s not an accessible toilet for them, it’s unbearable.”
Karen often hears of issues that pose a risk to disabled people’s health when a Changing Places facility isn’t available.
“Many people speak of issues of not being able to change pads and some people have a massive issue restraining from fluids and then have had infections,” reveals Karen.
Campaigners are constantly trying to raise awareness of the need for more Changing Places toilets, leading to big changes in legislation: from 2021, Changing Places toilets will be mandatory in new, large public buildings in England.
“A lot of campaigners have strived to get this awareness and getting the standard of rules changed to make these mandatory in building regulations going forward,” explains Karen.
“It opens [buildings] up for a whole community, to be able to go and access all of the stuff that non-disabled people can already do.”
While this update to legislation covers new buildings, organisations without the space to install a facility are now turning to innovative solutions to boost accessibility.
Organisations are increasingly turning to external Changing Places pods, Karen highlights: “It’s a way to reach a wider audience and a whole community so everyone can come and visit you and enjoy a day out.”
Alongside the change to building legislation, more funding will be made available to install Changing Places toilets at 37 motorway service stations across the country.
“If people are making a car journey and need to stop off, now everyone can do that, that’s another milestone,” emphasises Karen.
These advancements will make a difference to the lives of people who require Changing Places facilities, but more education and awareness is needed to give everyone who needs it access to a facility.
To find out more or to locate a Changing Places facility visit www.changingplaces.org.