Occupational Deprivation

The start of a new year gives us opportunity to reflect and also look forward. During 2020 we all saw our lives turned upside down by COVID-19 restrictions and the lack of access to daily activities especially those outside our own homes. Unfortunately for many this is nothing new. For many disabled persons occupational deprivation, a state of prolonged preclusion from engagement in occupations of necessity and/or meaning due to factors outside an individuals control is part of daily life.

In 2020 Euans Guide, a disabled access review website written by disabled people, their families, friends and carers, published an Access Survey which showed that 78% of respondents had chosen not to visit a place because of a lack of accessible toilet facilities. With the most common problems being lack of cleanliness, poor layout, not enough space, unsuitable or faulty equipment, and/or no Changing Places toilet.

Changing Places

Whilst the description of Changing Places is:

“the provision of the right equipment including a height adjustable adult-sized changing table, a tracking hoist system, adequate space for a disabled person and carer, a peninsular WC with room either side and a safe and clean environment including tear off paper to cover the bench, a large waste bin and a non-slip floor.’

A Changing Place toilet does so much more than provide clean and safe facilities, they enable social integration for many individuals with multiple or complex disabilities, including their carers and families. Meaning a greater ability for people to leave their homes and participate in meaningful activities such as shopping, visiting restaurants, sport, theatre and travel.

Changes for 2021

The Government has been working with the Changing Places Consortium for a number of years to increase provision of toilets and back in March 2020 announced its intention to take forward the proposals of the 2019 consultation on building regulations guidance with the launch of a £30 million Changing Places Fund. One of the aims of the Fund is to identify those sectors where there is a need to accelerate the provision of such facilities in existing buildings.

Obviously since this announcement we have been living with the effects of the global pandemic during which we have not only seen changes to our daily lives but also changes in funding and resources, with many delays in initiatives moving forward. It is however, essential that the work already started continues and the impact of COVID-19 informs rather than disrupts the process moving forward.

Legislation to make Changing Places toilets mandatory in new, large buildings in England from 2021 will assist with equality of access and improve the standard of the accessible built environment by developing a greater awareness of needs and allow users to attend to their hygiene with dignity. Whilst the mandatory provision of equipment will provide consistency for users between locations and help carers to lift and attend to users safely without endangering their own health.

It will also be interesting to look out for The Department for Education’s separate guidance, due in 2021 regarding Changing Places toilets in schools which provide community facilities.

Getting It Right

Whilst the number of Changing Places toilets is steadily increasing many more facilities are needed. The Changing Places website provides useful information and links for those thinking of installing a Changing Places facility including considerations about design, equipment and funding. Most importantly it is essential that Changing Places facilities are fitted with good quality equipment that is well maintained, including regular cleaning.

Closomoat have been working with Changing Places since 2009 providing design advice, site survey, equipment specification, sales, installation, repair and maintenance. With a wash/dry toilet being recommended as part of a Changing Place facility, they should be considered in conjunction with the provider and user as they enable independence in cleaning, comfort and dignity. Closomat’s approach to all projects including Hygiene Rooms and Space to Change rooms, which help bridge the gap between accessible toilets and Changing Place facilities, is to mix expert technical knowledge and advice alongside empathy and understanding for installers, users, carers and families.

Changing Place Facilities

A list of Closomat facilities can be found here. Whilst the Changing Paces toilet map available at https://changingplaces.uktoiletmap.org/ not only allows people to find nearby facilities but also allows journeys to be planned in advance. The availability and use of the map and facilities should be promoted enabling more participation, social integration and occupational justice for all.

Useful links and references: