Scottish charity PAMIS has launched a campaign at Glasgow’s St. Enoch Centre shopping mall, demanding greater provision of facilities for those who require personal assistance to use public conveniences.
PAMIS (Profound and Multiple Impairment Service) was founded 20 years ago. It is the only organisation in Scotland that works solely with people with profound and multiple learning difficulties and their families.
People with such complex disabilities require a high level of support. The majority are lifelong wheelchair users and are also likely to have sensory impairments with either vision or hearing affected, and in some cases, limitations to both senses.
Assisted changing toilets – known as Changing Places – are different to disabled toilets as they contain specialist equipment including hoists and adult-sized changing benches to allow those with complex disabilities to visit public conveniences more comfortably. Extra space is also incorporated to accommodate up to two carers.
St. Enoch Centre contains the only Changing Place toilet in Glasgow’s city centre. The shopping destination’s specialist facility is one of just 83 of its kind across Scotland.
More than 230,000 people across the UK are estimated to require personal assistance to use the toilet.
Elizabeth McBride, PAMIS Futures Project Officer, said: “To mark our 20th anniversary we are calling for at least 100 Changing Places facilities to be established across Scotland this year, and we hope that in the future we will see the addition of many more.
“All over the country disabled people and their families miss out on everyday activities because of a lack of suitable facilities. People have to either change their loved ones on dirty toilet floors or simply not go out.
“The number of people with complex disabilities is growing and we are all living longer – so more people are likely to need access to Changing Place toilets in the future.”
Attending the launch of the campaign were Alex and Christine Thomson from Dundee, whose daughter, Elaine, 30, has microcephaly, a neuro-developmental disorder in which the circumference of the head is smaller than usual, limiting the size of the brain. As a result of her condition, Elaine uses a wheelchair and is unable to communicate; she is also doubly incontinent and needs 24-hour care. For the last few years Elaine has lived in supported accommodation. Her family care for her overnight once a month and take her out every weekend.
Alex said: “Often when we’re out with Elaine the only facilities available are for baby changing which means we have to change her while she stands. If she had a bed to lie on, the experience would be much more dignified and comfortable for her and a lot less stressful for us.
“As my wife and I have got older, we are less able to look after Elaine physically as she is a fully grown woman and we have difficulty supporting her weight.”
Susan Nicol, general manager of St. Enoch Centre, said: “St. Enoch Centre takes great pride in being a destination accessible to all.
“We hope that our support for this important campaign will encourage other providers of leisure, dining and shopping facilities to consider installing facilities suitable for those with complex disabilities.”
As part of its campaign, PAMIS is distributing a new directory of Changing Places toilets. To obtain a copy or have facilities added please see www.pamis.org.uk.