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Posted by Vaila Morrison, Care Designs on

Toilets may not be the most glamorous room in a building, but I think you’d agree they certainly are necessary!

We’d never expect to visit a building without any loos, it wouldn’t occur to most of us to even ask the question, indeed we wouldn’t even expect to attend a temporary outdoor event without some kind of toilet provision being put in place - but the thing is - not many buildings or outdoor venues have toilets that are accessible to everyone.

Lots of buildings have disabled toilets, don’t they?

Thankfully yes - not always perfect of course - but there are more and more accessible toilets in more and more buildings. However, the standard kind of accessible toilet is not suitable for all kinds of disabilities.

If you need help from a carer or PA in the loo, have a large wheelchair, need somewhere to lay down to have a pad or colostomy bag changed and/or need to use a hoist to transfer from your wheelchair to the change bench or toilet, then a standard accessible loo just isn’t made for you. The type of toilet you’d need is a Changing Places Toilet (sometimes shortened to CPT).

So what is a Changing Places Toilet?

A Changing Places is essentially a larger toilet, with space enough to accommodate a large wheelchair or mobility scooter, up to two carers, an adjustable height changing bench and a ceiling hoist (in addition to a toilet and wash basin and the usual accessible toilet grab rails and emergency cord).

You can read a bit more about the specifics at the Changing Places Consortium website, the main campaign organisation. The website also has a database and map to help you find the nearest Changing Places Toilet in the UK!

What impact do they make?

People don’t really talk about their toilet needs, or the needs of those they care for, it’s all a bit embarrassing and many people just make do or stay isolated at home.

Lack of suitable toilets can impact the choice of where people go, only being able to nip out for short trips (between loo breaks) or simply just not going out at all.

Accessibility is often framed as an issue affecting individuals, the need to cater for disabled people as a minority, somewhat detached from the rest of the population. Of course, this is not the case! We are families, groups of friends and want to be able to socialise, go on outings, school trips and all the things non-disabled people would do. Also disabled people can often be accompanied by employed personal assistants or care workers who cannot lift those they are responsible for without appropriate equipment so therefore cannot go where facilities are not available.

Research also tells us the purple pound represents billions to our economy! People with greater accessibility needs, want to get out and about and enjoy our built environment, socialise, spend money as much as the next person!

The 19th of July is Changing Places Awareness Day!

Normally there are various events around the UK at this time of year, however this year is a little different for all of us, and perhaps things will be a bit quieter all round.

Last year saw the launch of a government consultation about amending the building regulations to require large new buildings to install a Changing Places Toilet. We’re really hopeful this will move forward and will help to increase the provision in new buildings.

However this isn’t the end, we still must keep talking about Changing Places Toilets!

Existing buildings and venues may not be aware that they really should have this provision, and also many people who actually need this type of loo are not aware that they exist!

The recent restrictions due to COVID-19 has lead to a lack of access to toilets for all of us when out and about. It would be great if this glimpse into what it is like for changing places users all of the time, has a lasting impression on people who are in a position to make changes.

Things are improving, and in recent years some big retailers in the UK have made commitments to install changing places, notably Ikea and Tesco. Kerry Thompson has been working on the campaign with Tesco and this recent blog post of hers lists all the current locations, with more to come!

For outdoor events and temporary facilities, the not for profit company, Mobiloo offer the hire of mobile Changing Places Toilets. Even in normal circumstances, Mobiloo have an attendant with them, so are always cleaned between users. This is particularly reassuring in these uncertain times!

Here are Care Designs we are keen to support this campaign as this it’s an issue that dis-proportionally affects our customers.

And really, championing equal access to toilets, is a call for freedom and independence for everyone, and that’s what we all want, right?