It’s the first thing you do when you arrive anywhere with your little ones and the last thing before you leave. That’s it – make sure everyone goes to the loo. Once that’s sorted, you can really enjoy your day out, as well as make the journey home a wee bit more chilled.
But for thousands of people with multiple disabilities who need the support of a carer or specialist equipment to use the loo, that simply isn’t possible. Standard accessible toilets don’t include sufficient space for two or more people and usually lack the facilities needed by those with complex disabilities. Instead, carers have to choose between putting themselves or the disabled person at risk by changing them on the floor. That’s:
Lydia Seton, a special school teacher, explained: “We go to so many places where we cannot change children or can only change them on a bed sheet on the floor. Not very dignified for the children and also not good for the staff to lift etc. Lack of suitable facilities often means that the visit has to be cut short: “Usually on school trips we have to get back to school early to bathroom all children before we go home. This can take up to an hour which makes our trips very short.”
More than a quarter of a million people in the U.K. need the kind of facilities we’re talking about. A lack of appropriate facilities means that they (and their carers or families) can’t enjoy a great day out together.
Enter Changing Places…
In 2005 a campaign was launched for Changing Places loos to be installed in all big public spaces – shopping centres, libraries, hospitals, airports, visitor attractions, town centres – in fact everywhere and anywhere.
How is a Changing Places loo different from a standard accessible toilet? They have more space and extra facilities, including:
- enough space for the disabled person and two carers
- a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench
- a hoist (either mobile or a tracking hoist)
- centrally located toilet with room either side
- a screen or curtain for privacy
Plus they provide a safe, clean environment with the provision of things like a tear-off paper roll to cover the bench and a large waste bin for disposable pads.
Ten years after the start of the campaign, there are 850 Changing Places in the U.K. and Northern Ireland. What an amazing achievement!
So how is provision developing in our part of the world? Well…
- There are 3 in within a 1.5 mile radius Halifax town centre. That’s one more than in the centre of Leeds!
- Perhaps the quirkiest location is in a shop – the Mencap shop in Dewsbury!
- 83 people have used Eureka!’s Changing Place just since February this year.
The UK is setting a great example for the rest of the world too. Changing Places can now be found in Australia, Germany (where they’re called Toilets for All and use a snazzy black/red icon) and the campaign has just started in the USA.
Changing Places: Changing lives!
Back to Lydia to explain the features she found in Eureka!’s very own Changing Places.
“A tracking hoist makes hoisting so much easier…cleanliness was excellent. With everything able to go up and down this meant that our more able pupils could wash their own hands in the sink. The only other bathroom I have seen to such high standard is the one in the Trafford Centre near the food court. We were able to bathroom all of our children in your facilities without the worry of ‘health and safety’ whilst still allowing the rest of the children to enjoy their day.”
We’re flushed with pride to know that our loo has made such a difference to these children and many other visitors to Halifax.
And that’s why it’s all cisterns go (last one I promise!) at Eureka! to celebrate Changing Places Awareness Day on 19th July. Happy Birthday Changing Places, and congratulations on this inspiring, life-changing campaign. With so much achieved in one decade – where will we be in another ten years?
We’ll be celebrating here at Eureka! in our own unique way by having a conga in the loo! Make sure you check out the #Incloosive hashtag on Twitter to see celebrations across the country and visit the Changing Places website to find out how you can join in!