You visit an Art Gallery. You may visit the gallery café or the gallery shop. You may also visit the loos, after all you’ll be there for a while. In this time you may have spent a bob or two.
The problem for us is we are not able to ‘spend a penny’. My son has Cerebral Palsy, he has difficulties controlling his movements and cannot stand or sit unaided, because of his condition is unable to use a standard disabled toilet. Due to a woeful lack of toilet provision in the UK for people with profound disabilities or complex health needs, visiting many places for us is limited, time restricted or simply unachievable these days.
This situation gives us a feeling of increasing worthlessness, social exclusion and inability to participate in everyday activities that others take for granted. I don’t have a disability myself but I’ve come to learn what a barrier and disadvantage it is to have no access to a toilet, a basic human right. Often I’ve had to attend my son’s toileting needs in degrading, dangerous and unhygienic situations, a baby change, car boot, various floors. It is soul destroying.
This led me to the UK Changing Places campaign which seeks to highlight the need for accessible toilets with more space and extra assistive equipment including a bench and ceiling hoist. These toilets are specifically designed to assist multiple health needs and should be provided in addition to the full range of single sex and standard accessible WC’s and baby changing facilities. At present there are 1069 Changing Places facilities registered in the UK, not anywhere near enough to meet the needs for an estimated 250,000 + people in the UK.
While a growing number of visitor attractions, transport hubs, shopping centres and sport stadiums, already include Changing Places toilets , larger museums and galleries are lagging behind at just 14 toilets (Tate, Nottingham Contemporary, Eureka museum to name a few). Some of the reasons for this being a lack of knowledge and awareness and issues relating to ‘restricted’ funding. Onus is on individual venues to deliver and manage facilities. This is a particular problem for charity led and free for entry museums that rely on external funding to deliver their work.
What can we do to change this?
Awareness; some venues may have no previous knowledge of Changing Places toilets or the need despite being recommended in British Standard 8300. As a code of practice, this British Standard takes the form of guidance and recommends that Changing Places toilets should be provided in larger buildings and complexes.
Public venues must take positive steps to remove the barriers and have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to ensure visitors and staff have the same services, as far a possible as someone who’s not disabled. It’s important to get in touch with a museum or gallery to raise your concerns. Although there may be no immediate solution, venues will be able to plan ahead and look at other funding opportunities.
Disabled people represent a massive untapped market for business with a collective spending power at £249 billion, which is why fully accessible toilets make excellent business sense! Venues can broaden their accessibility appeal and visitor audience by providing Changing Places toilets.
Find out more about Changing Places here and how they change lives.
Face book – @Changing_Places
Alison Beevers – Retford Changing Places Campaign (facebook)