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What are Changing Places toilets, and what difference do they make? Abigail Ringer explains.
As we start a brand new year I enjoy reflecting on the last 12 months and celebrating the ways the world has changed to accommodate the needs of differently-abled people.
In particular, the Changing Places Consortium deserves recognition for all that the campaign achieved in 2017.
With a passion for a more inclusive society, Changing Places has campaigned, and continues to campaign, for the provision of toilets for those who cannot use standard accessible toilets.
Many adults and children affected by motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy and other brain injuries cannot use a standard accessible toilet, making life tricky when away from home. Parents are left with little choice but to change their children on dirty toilet floors or in the back of vehicles. Some people simply choose not to leave the house.
Fortunately, this all began to change in 2005 when the Changing Places Consortium began working with local councils and a huge number of venues throughout the UK, to introduce Changing Places toilets.
These facilities come properly equipped to meet the requirements of those who need them, with a height adjustable changing bench, a hoist, and enough space to accommodate both the individual with up to two carers.
In July 2017, Brody’s mum shared her experience of trying to look after Brody away from home. As a result of his disabilities, Brody is doubly incontinent and still wears a nappy.
Brody’s mum describes how she, and other parents of children in a similar position, are often left with limited options, such as:
“Changing their loved one in the car boot.
Changing their loved one on the toilet floor.
Leaving their loved one in a dirty nappy.
Leaving a day out early to return home.
Not going out at all.”
Happily, Changing Places has made an enormous difference to Brody and his family, who are particularly delighted by the new Changing Places toilet that the Scottish Forestry Commission has at their visitor centre in Galloway Forest Park:
“It may sound a little over the top, but this facility means a great deal to my family…We holiday in Carrick every year and part of the reason we love the area is simply because we know there is a changing places toilet nearby. It means that much.”
There is more about Brody’s family, and other families’ experience on the Changing Places website.
2017 was a fantastic year for Changing Places, as the 1000th Changing Places toilet was opened in Retford, Nottinghamshire. Over 150 new Changing Places toilets were created last year, also seeing the introduction of Scotland’s first mobile Changing Places toilet.
Looking ahead to 2018, Center Parcs have confirmed plans to install Changing Places toilets at each of their villages by the Summer of 2018. In addition, IKEA hope to put Changing Places toilets in all new stores.
I have the enormous privilege of working with families who have benefited hugely from Changing Places toilets and, as I reflect on 2017 and look forward to 2018, it is clear that Changing Places toilets are certainly changing lives.