In our away from home toilet provision, are we, as a nation, failing to grab a simple way to enable at least ¼ million- and potentially millions of- people do the things most of us able-bodied take for granted?
The issue facing the hundreds of thousands of people who have muscular dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons, and most other muscular conditions, is that they can struggle to get on and off the toilet. They don’t have the upper or lower body strength. They do not necessarily have the balance.
Sometimes a grab rail meets the need. But for many, it doesn’t. They need some sort of stable lifting device- ideally a toilet lifter, or even a height adjustable WC. One MD sufferer, who has a height adjustable toilet at home, summed it up recently.
In her words: “I am unable to go to the toilet ANYWHERE else, which limits my overall ability to go for days out etc.”
It throws the whole definition of accessible and wheelchair accessible toilets into question. There is much focus, and a growing awareness, of Changing Places toilets. Their ‘core’ target market, if we care going to put it into such bald terms, are the 230,000 children and adults with profound and multiple disabilities.
We have always said Changing Places are of value to potentially millions more people. The people who lack a sit-to-stand function are a perfect example. With the right aids, they can undertake certain tasks independently, with dignity.
Under the Equality Act, providers are duty bound to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments, including to the built environment to address what would put a disabled person at a ‘substantial’ disadvantage. Not being able to go away from my own home because I couldn’t find a suitable toilet I think counts as a substantial disadvantage.
A toilet lift is a comparatively small cost in the overall scheme of providing a facility such as a Changing Places. Yet providing that- and telling people you have it!!- ensures many more people can access your services, facilities, spend time- and money- there.
Taking it a stage further, the new British Standard BS8300:2018 for an accessible built environment, now includes a note on the Changing Places specification to the effect that including a wash & dry toilet ensures users have greater dignity and independence. Make that a height-adjustable wash & dry toilet, and you have a best practice solution, that future-proofs your investment for including needs beyond the current specification.