The 500th Changing Places fully accessible disabled toilet was officially opened at The O2 last night by pop music fan Hannah James from Greenwich.
Hannah, 28, is one of 230,000 people across the UK who benefit from Changing Places toilets. They are used by people who need assistance and special equipment in order to go to the loo, such as people severe and profound learning disabilities and people with other severe disabilities, including spinal injuries and acquired brain injuries.
Once the formalities were over, the team at The O2 arranged for Hannah and her Personal Assistant Julie Lofthouse to enjoy the sold-out The Big Reunion show, which featured performances from 5ive, Atomic Kitten, B*Witched, Blue, Liberty X, 911 and the Honeyz.
Hannah said: “A toilet opening might seem like a weird thing to get excited about but having access to one of these is a huge deal to people like me who have to worry and stress-out about when and where the next toilet stop will be. They make life so much easier.
“It was great that I got to celebrate afterwards by watching The Big Reunion show and seeing Atomic Kitten, B*Witched and 5ive perform.”
The 500th toilet at The O2 is a key milestone for the Changing Places campaign, which for the past seven years has been calling for an increase in the numbers of fully accessible toilets in public places so that the people who need them can enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else.
Top Paralympians including Ade Adepitan are supporting the Changing Places campaign. He said:
“It was amazing to see so many disabled people cheering on team GB at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games last summer. The fact that specially designed Changing Places toilets were available helped make this possible. Without them, many people simply wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go along. 500 is a great landmark, but we need thousands to make a real difference.”
Rebecca Kane, General Manager of The O2 said:
“I am extremely proud that The O2 is the host of the 500th Changing Places toilet, which highlights the venue’s on-going commitment to accessibility. I am also delighted that as a result of this facility opening Hannah James could enjoy the show here.”
Changing Places toilets are larger than a standard disabled toilet and include a height-adjustable changing bench, a hoist and room for up to two carers. Where these toilets are not available, carers and families are often forced to change and care for their loved ones in highly undignified and unsuitable conditions, such as toilet floors. Others simply choose not to visit public places where these toilets are not available.
The Changing Places Consortium, which runs the Changing Places campaign, consists of Mencap, PAMIS, Nottingham City Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Scottish Government and the Centre for Accessible Environments.
Loretto Lambe, director of PAMIS and co-chair of the consortium says:
“500 toilets is a great starting point and we’re thrilled that The O2 now has a Changing Places toilet. But we need the people designing and managing other leisure venues and large public places to get on board, accept that these facilities are absolutely essential, and provide them as standard.
“Key to the success of our campaign to date has been the disabled people and their families who have been campaigning locally to make sure Changing Places are available in the communities in which they live. The 500th milestone now reached today is in no small part thanks to our supporters and we’re keen to get more people involved and help make sure that these toilets are available everywhere.”
The official sponsor of the Changing Places campaign is Aveso Ltd. Aveso hope that its support for the campaign will help it achieve its target of 1000 registered Changing Places toilets within the next three years.
To find out how you can support the Changing Places campaign for fully accessible disabled toilets please visit www.changing-places.org