“Dignity is for everyone, everywhere, always”

It’s the summer holidays, so plenty of time for family trips! But what if you can’t go anywhere, because you won’t be able to use the loo?

Changing Places campaigns on behalf of disabled people who can’t use standard accessible toilets. They need changing places toilets which are publicly accessible with enough space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist. Here Sarah, a campaigner for Changing Places explains why it’s so important. 

I’ve been a Changing Places campaigner for four years. I became involved in the campaign after taking a young woman with profound and multiple learning disabilities I supported on a flight, only to realise that there was nowhere to change her once we arrived at the airport. I am a learning disability nurse and fighting the corner for people with a learning disability is something I do every day. I find no other campaign more worthy of my time.

Changing Places are fighting for the most basic of rights, the right to use the toilet. That’s right, there are many people out there, who daily, are being denied this right. Over 250,000 people in the UK need a changing place. A changing place differs from a standard disabled toilet as they are publicly accessible with enough space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist.

Two images, on showing a father with his disabled child lying on a mat on a toilet floor, and one with a mum helping her disabled child in a hoist in a much larger changing room
On the left, Alfie and his Dad having no choice but to use the toilet floor. On the right, Margaret and her daughter Julie use a changing place. Photos by Clos-o-mat. 

Karen says “it’s impossible to go out, because of the lack of changing places, my son is too heavy for me to lift even try changing him on a floor of a disabled toilet is impossible.”

Often without a changing place families and carers have no option but to change their loved ones wherever they can, and often this will be on a toilet floor.

Margaret, a Changing Places campaigner says, “It’s changed my daughter’s life and mine. She can’t stand or walk so can’t get onto a toilet. We had to lie her on wet, smelly, dirty toilet floors. At airports we had to change her on baby changing room floors, the immigration room floor and the prayer room floor. It was more than a mother could tolerate, so I made it my ambition to change things.”

Our request is simple. For larger businesses to join our cause and install a changing place. Often without a changing place families do not go somewhere simply because they cannot. Would you go out knowing the second you needed the toilet you would have to come back home?

A big bright clean changing places room with a hoist, changing bed, toilet and chairs
The changing places facilities at East Midlands airport. Photos by Clos-o-mat. 

Businesses are not just missing out on the quarter of a million people who need these facilities, but are also missing out on the support and custom of their families, friends and carers. As the Extra Costs Commission report recommends, businesses need to listen to and understand the needs of disabled consumers, and recognise the power of the purple pound. They might just find that they could reap the rewards.

I’ve been running the Facebook page behind Changing Places since 2011 voluntarily. We are a community of campaigners, families, carers and more importantly people who are in desperate need of these facilities themselves. We fight daily for dignity, accessibility, and equality, but I do wonder why in 2015 this is still a battle. Please join us in making the world a better place for the most vulnerable people in our society; dignity is for everyone, everywhere, always.

The UK has 750 changing places, and counting.

Have you had any similar experiences? Or have you used a changing place? How did you find it?