Times. They are a-Changing.

2021, a Pivotal Year for Accessible Restrooms in England

A Changing Places toilet at The Deep Aquarium, Hull
A Changing Places toilet at The Deep Aquarium, Hull
By Helen Evans of Aveso
The UK’s Changing Places campaign has come a long way since it was launched in 2006. Significant successes have been achieved in 2021 after years of hard work, including the introduction of new legislation requiring venues to include Changing Places Toilets (Restrooms) and the announcement of £30m in funding that will be allocated through local councils to encourage more Changing Places to be installed across England.

There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. A proportion of those – people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well as people with other physical disabilities – often need equipment, such as a hoist and changing table, and space to allow them to use restroom facilities safely and comfortably. With a lack of Changing Places, many people (including families) are effectively excluded from being able to do all of the things that they want to do.

The Changing Places Consortium (a group of like-minded charities and organisations) launched its campaign in 2006 on behalf of the over 250,000 people across the UK who cannot use standard accessible restrooms. This includes people with muscle-wasting conditions, profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, as well as older people. Since then the Consortium and many hard-working individual campaigners have pressed organisations and Government with the goal of making the installation of these facilities a priority.

The Consortium created a set of Changing Places specification requirements, ensuring that all facilities installed are built to the same standard and maximise their accessibility. Changing Places restrooms provide more space (12sqm2) than a standard disabled restroom in order to accommodate the disabled person and two carers. They are also required to include a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench and a ceiling track hoist. Other specialist equipment such as height adjustable washbasins, peninsular toilets, a privacy screen and grab rails are also included.

A Changing Places toilet at the Wellcome Collection Museum, London

One of the major successes of this year has been the introduction by the UK Government of new legislation requiring Changing Places to be designed and built into new and re-developed public buildings over a certain size. The legislation became law for England in January 2021, following the legislation already set in Scotland. The Government estimates that Changing Places Toilets will be added to a minimum of 150 new buildings per year in England as a result. Shopping malls, supermarkets, cinemas, stadia and arts venues are just some of the buildings that are now required to include at least one Changing Places Toilet in any new build or major refurbishment.

As the legislation stands, there is no legal requirement to retrospectively fit existing buildings. However, the newly announced £30m of funding for Changing Places will enable local councils to decide where in their area, including in existing public buildings, Changing Places restrooms are most needed. This will help expand the network of facilities across England.

While announcing the provision of the £30m of funding, Regional Growth Minister Luke Hall MP said:

‘For too long, the lack of suitable toilet facilities has meant disabled people have faced major difficulties when they shop, go out, or travel and this should not be the case. That’s why the provision of Changing Places toilets is so important for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets.’

A Changing Places toilet at the Friary Shopping Mall, Guildford

In addition to progress initiated by Government-led initiatives, a number of UK organisations have unilaterally made significant improvements to their accessibility. One example is Tesco Supermarket: Over the last three years, official Changing Places campaign sponsor Aveso has been working with the food retail giant alongside the Changing Places Consortium to facilitate the installation of a large number of Changing Places Toilets throughout Tesco’s network of stores. The project culminated in a celebration of the opening of their 100th Changing Places Toilet in December 2020.

A Changing Places toilet at Tesco Supermarket, Watford

2021 is certainly a pivotal year, and a great deal has been achieved, but the job is by no means done. Work will continue to raise awareness of the need for Changing Places Toilets, and the £30M funding just announced will make installation a possibility for many venues that would otherwise struggle to install a Changing Places Toilet.

It is also really exciting to see the international growth of Changing Places and we hope to use our experience to help fast-track the roll out of these facilities in other countries.

ABOUT AVESO

As official sponsors of the Changing Places campaign, the team at Aveso are passionate about creating spaces which provide a safe environment for people with additional restroom needs. They can help every step of the way; from initial advice on feasibility and funding, to planning and design, through to installation.