A major change to building rules in England will require thousands of large and well-equipped accessible toilet facilities to be designed and built into new public buildings – news which North Swindon MP and Minister for Disabled People has described as an important step forward for severely disabled people and their families.
The new rules announced by the Government this week will make Changing Places toilets compulsory in new buildings, such as shopping centres, supermarkets, cinemas, stadia and arts venues.
Changing Places toilets are larger, accessible toilets for severely disabled people, with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches and space for carers.
In the absence of Changing Places facilities, disabled people and/or carers face:
- Limiting what they drink to avoid needing the toilet when they are out – risking dehydration and urinary tract infections
- Sitting in soiled clothing or dirty nappies until a suitable toilet is found or they return home
- Having to change a loved one on a dirty toilet floor
- Manually lifting someone out of their wheelchair – risking safety
- Reducing their time out of the house – restricting their social lives
These new facilities will give people with complex needs and their carers the confidence and freedom to get out and about, potentially benefitting more than 250,000 people.
In addition to new buildings, the Government has announced a £30 million fund to install Changing Places facilities in existing buildings, which will open in the next few months.
The Department for Transport, in partnership with Muscular Dystrophy UK, has also announced £1.27 million to install 37 more Changing Places facilities at service stations across England.
With this latest round of funding, 87 of England’s 118 service stations will be set to have a fully accessible Changing Places toilet in the early 2020s.
This investment is part of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy, which aims to provide equal access to transport by 2030, with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier.
Justin Tomlinson said: “This is such an important step forward for severely disabled people and their families who often find it difficult to enjoy a day out without having to worry about accessing basic facilities. We won’t stop there - our priority is to build on this by ensuring disabled people’s interests are at the heart of our recovery from coronavirus.”