Remember the excitement as a child of going to the fair to try a new ride and being told you’re too small, too young?
If you need the criteria that combine to form a Changing Places toilet, the experience above is how you feel when you go to use such a facility, only to find you can’t.
You may think I’m over-stating it, but to people who need Changing Places, there are still so comparatively few such toilets about, that they really do feel that degree of excitement of finding one.
It means they CAN go somewhere they may never have been able to access before. It means they CAN stay for a while, have something to eat, drink. They can be ‘normal’ (whatever normal is).
Why can’t they use it? Usually it’s simply because although the specification has been met on paper, its practicality has not been considered. It’s the balance between design and functionality.
On paper, (BS8300:2018), a Changing Places assisted accessible toilet should be minimum 3m x 4m (12m2), with a ceiling height of 2.4m, and include, among other features, a full room coverage ceiling track hoist, adult-sized changing bench, washbasin, privacy screen and peninsular toilet.
But the reality is different.
Sometimes there is insufficient space for a wheelchair user and a carer to get in, turn round, use the facility. The height clearance is too little for the hoist to raise them from wheelchair to changing bench. The layout has not been thought through, so the hoist does not reach certain areas- we’ve even had reports of one where it didn’t reach the WC, or the person who needs the facility has had to be manoeuvred over and across the WC to reach the changing bench. The toilet is too close to the wall to enable easy, safe transfer.
So then we face the Catch 22, that venues say they have made the investment in a Changing Places but why bother as no-one uses it. It’s a costly mistake, not just in the money spent creating the facility, but the resultant bad publicity when users find it is unuseable.
So a word of advice: design it right and ensure it is fit for purpose. Then everyone is happy.