When we talk about Changing Places toilets (CPTs), we often focus on the adult-sized changing bench and hoist, as they are two of the most prominent pieces of equipment in the room, and arguably the most recognisable for the lay person. But the specification of a CPT is so much more than that. Written by OTs from the University of Dundee in consultation with Closomat and other industry partners, it includes an array of fixtures and materials that combine to make the space as inclusive and accessible as possible.
Some of these elements are often overlooked, rendering facilities below the British Standard, and unusable by some members of the disabled community for which they are intended.
Aesthetically, non-slip flooring materials don’t always lend themselves to the architect or interior designer’s vision for a public toilet space and more contemporary finishes can initially appear costly. But when it comes to Changing Places toilets, a non-slip floor is vital for preventing accidents. Many disabled people have mobility aids and wheelchairs, which require a stable and secure surface so users can transfer safely to and from the toilet and/or changing bench.
People with impaired mobility are at higher risk of falling due to limited balance or control of their movements, hence the legal requirement of an emergency alarm pull cord (that should always be hanging just above the floor and never tied up). Non-slip floor is therefore essential and great care should be given to the choice of material and its colour. (See LRV and Colour Contrast).
LRV and colour contrast
Colour contrast is a vital element of accessible design. Where there is little contrast, the user may have difficulty identifying the allocated space within the room. For example, if the wall and floor colours are very similar, someone with a neurological condition, which affects proprioception, depth perception or spacial awareness deficits, could struggle to process where one ends and the other begins. These can also be symptoms of visual or cognitive impairment.
Colour contrast can also be used to mark specific areas within a space, allowing the user to more clearly identify which part of the room is for the toilet, sink, or shower for example.
However, it is important when incorporating colour contrast into accessible design that we know how to maximise its impact. To do this we need to understand light reflective values (LRV), which is a number from a scale given to every colour based on its reflectivity. To use colour contrast most effectively we need to ensure that the LRV difference between colours is greater than 30. For example, black has a LRV of 0 and white has a LRV of 100. As well as walls, doors and floors, fittings such as grabrails, dispensers, pull cords and switches should also contrast their surroundings.
Choosing materials is also about more than just selecting a colour. Matt surfaces should be used wherever possible to avoid glare.
Wash and dry automatic toilet
Whilst the wash and dry toilet is not a legal requirement in a Changing Places Toilet, its inclusion is something many disabled people and their carers are calling for.
The Closomat Wash and Dry toilet integrates washing and drying functions, eliminating the need for manual wiping or assistance from a caregiver. This promotes dignity and independence and ensures a higher level of hygiene for all users. It also makes the facility accessible to a broader range of people, including those with limited mobility or dexterity.
The psychological benefits of being able to clean oneself should also not be overlooked. Closomat Wash and Dry toilets are specifically designed for individuals with disabilities and are widely used in residential as well as public settings. By including this type of toilet in a Changing Places facility, users benefit from the familiarity and consistency of a system they are used to, ensuring a comfortable and stress-free experience.
A wash-dry toilet can be used as a conventional toilet at all times.
Full length mirror
A full-length mirror is required in a Changing Places Toilet. The obvious reason for this is so that users at any height can use it to check their appearance. But it has other functions. Some individuals may have capacity to dress themselves independently with the use of a mirror, requiring less assistance from a carer, or they may have medical conditions that require monitoring or adjusting, such as pressure sores, prosthetics or catheters that require the ability to see the entire body.
The mirror can also be used for communication when a care-giver is standing behind the user and can benefit those with visual or sensory impairments, serving as a reference point to understand their position and help them navigate and move around the space more effectively.
It is important that the mirror does not extend all the way to the floor however, so that it cannot be mistaken for a door or opening.
Sanitary and waste disposal
It’s vitally important to provide adequate waste disposal units in a Changing Places facility. General waste receptacles will be required as well as a large sanitary disposal bin, capable of fitting several large adult-sized continence pads. These need to be emptied regularly.