Most of us, seeing that headline, would think, “But surely there ARE accessible toilets? What is he talking about?”
Yes, of course there are wheelchair- and ambulant- accessible toilets, a legal requirement in any building to which the public have access, under Building Regulations. But potentially millions of people with impairments can’t use those.
They need more space. They need lifting. They need changing.
Their reality, without these, is to cut a visit short, to remain in a soiled nappy or with a full stoma, lie on a toilet floor to be changed, or not go out at all.
And neither they, nor thousands of relevant professionals – architects, building designers, access auditors, Occupational Therapists, are aware that there IS a solution….
Changing Places toilets were developed as a concept to meet the needs of at least a quarter of a million people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, and others who need the help of at least one carer, lifting, and changing, to address bladder and bowel function.
As the facilities have become established, people with other disabilities and conditions have learned of them, and appreciated how they meet their toilet needs too. People with muscular or neurological conditions, incontinence, stoma, arthritis, limb loss… The list goes on, to encompass potentially up to 14 million people! They may not all need every piece of kit provided by a Changing Places, but all benefit from either the additional space, the hoist and/or the adult-sized changing bench.
They are an addition to conventional accessible toilets
Under British Standards (BS8300:2009), a Changing Places facility is in addition to any conventional wheelchair-accessible toilets, and includes space of at least 3m x 4m, with a peninsular toilet, height adjustable adult-sized changing bench, and ceiling track hoist.
Under that Standard, and now Building Regulations (Approved Document M), it is ‘desirable’ to include a Changing Places as part of any new construction or refurbishment project involving a building to which numbers of the public have access. That includes travel hubs, town centres, shopping centres, tourist attractions, schools, hospitals, entertainment venues…
Providers often resist calls for Changing Places, due to space or cost
Campaigners for Changing Places often hit barriers to installation, however. Providers resist on the basis of space and/or cost. So the campaigners, in conjunction with special needs organisation Firefly Community and supported by the UK’s expert in disabled toilet provision, Clos-o-Mat, have developed an alternative.
Space to Change bridges the gap between a conventional wheelchair-accessible toilet and a ‘full specification’ Changing Places. It encompasses a 7.5m2+ (3m x 2.5m min) wheelchair-accessible toilet that further includes an adult-sized changing bench and a hoist. Any smaller makes it impractical for a wheelchair user and their carer to both fit in, and then manoeuvre to use the equipment.
Ideally, every public venue would have a Changing Places
In an ideal world, every public venue would include a Changing Places. The ultimate aim campaigners are lobbying for is that provision of a Changing Places becomes a legal requirement, rather than ‘desirable’.
But we don’t live in an ideal world; whilst the campaign is growing apace – over 900 Changing Places now open nationwide – it has taken a decade to get that far, so it may be a while yet before the law is changed. Meanwhile, Space to Change gives a viable alternative, so at least space, a bench and hoist are available for those that need them.
So, if you are involved in designing a building to be accessible, please bear this in mind. If you want to go out, and need additional intimate care facilities, look for Changing Places, they will enable you to go further, stay longer! And if there’s somewhere you would love to go, but can’t because it doesn’t have suitable toilets, you now have a solution to approach with!
Kelvin Grimes, pictured above, Clos-o-Mat’s project manager for away from home toilets, has written this article about fully accessible toilets
Living with a disability; caring for someone who cannot live independently; bringing up a disabled child – the Advice Centre has information on benefits, legislation, keeping warm and well, fall prevention, generally coping with being a carer.
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