Changing Facilities – where are they?

Today’s blog on the vital topic of finding changing facilities has been written for Evenbreak by Will Davies.
Photograph courtesy of the Changing Places Consortium

For many years, people with very particular and quite severe disabilities would find getting out and about particularly challenging. Thousands of people living in the UK need more than just the standard accessible toilets in order to enjoy activities outside of their homes; these people need more advanced changing places facilities that have things such as a height adjustable changing bench, a hoist and much more room compared to your average toilet. 

The Changing Places Consortium have launched their campaign on behalf of the people that cannot use standard accessible toilets, with their main aim being to create more changing places facilities across the UK, particularly in places such as city centres, hospitals and airports. 

Who needs access to changing places facilities?  

It’s too hard to use an exact figure when talking about how many people need access to a changing places facility, but it includes hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities, not to mention 40,000 people that suffer from profound and multiple learning difficulties. It also affects people that have diseases like Motor Neurone disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy.

 It is thought that the approximate figures for people that need changing places toilets are: 

  • 130,000 older people
  • 30,000 people with cerebral palsy
  • 13,000 people with an acquired brain injury
  • 8,500 people with Multiple Sclerosis
  • 8,000 people with Spina Bifida
  • 500 people with Motor Neurone Disease 

Therefore, should the campaign be a success, then it will benefit around a quarter of a million people in the UK.

What have the Changing Places Consortium done so far?

The Changing Places Consortium have hit a number of landmarks since the beginning of their campaign, which is now really gathering pace and having a big influence in Northern Ireland too. 

Their successes so far include: 

  • Lagan Valley opening the first changing places facility in Northern Ireland.
  • Held successful talks with Boris Johnson, resulting in a changing places facility being opened in the City Hall.
  • Several facilities made available for the London Olympics.
  • Mobile facilities used at Birmingham shopping centres over the festive period.
  • George Best International Airport opened their first changing places toilet.
  • East Midlands, Birmingham and Gatwick all followed.
  • The Consortium partnered with manufacturer Aveso.
  • 600 new changing places toilets built. 

The Consortium have also implemented some really handy features on their website, including the “Find a toilet” service. The user simply enters the postcode of their current whereabouts and the website will display the closest changing places toilets. The site also provides a designing section, with case studies to help you or an organisation build the perfect changing places toilet. 

Still a long way to go  

Despite all of the Changing Places Consortium’s hard work, there is still a long way to go. Over 600 new changing places facilities may seem like a lot, but, when you put it into perspective, those 600 new facilities are across the whole of the UK. I did some research and found it quite shocking that there are only 5 changing places toilets within a 10 mile radius of my house and 2 out of the 5 were at Heathrow Airport!

I am sure it won’t be long before this all changes thanks to the hard work from the Changing Places Consortium, keep up the good work! 

The Airport Parking Shop have created a very handy blog post which provides information about changing places toilets at UK Airports.

Similarly, the Luton Airport Guide have a really useful page on travelling with a disability.

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