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REFLECTION: Changing times for changing places

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There has been plenty of coverage recently about the amendments to the 2010 Building Regulations with regards to access and use of buildings volume 2 – buildings other than dwellings 2015 edition.

In a quest to speak to someone who has been involved in the installation of Changing Places for over 15 years – Mark Sadler, UK sales manager at Ropox gives his views on the latest changes and the scheme in general.

What difference will these changes make?

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While they could result in an increase in enquiries for companies such as Ropox, to be honest, these latest changes will have little effect for anything up to 3 or 4 years especially for service users but 5 years from now I believe people will look back at the current situation with regards to changing facilities and fully realise how inadequate it was in 2020.

The reason for such a delay in seeing the benefits is that the new rules will only apply to new build planning applications which are submitted after January 1st 2021 and we all know how long an initial submission can take to come to fruition, especially for something as substantial as a shopping or leisure centre, motorway services or theatre. 

The big difference is that at the moment, incorporating a Changing Places facility is optional and seen as best practice but from January 1st next year it will be compulsory in all new build applications and plans for building types listed in the link above which are submitted after that date.

What else do you think could be done to further improve Changing Places?

Personally, without a doubt I think they could be better signposted both within each building but also to the wider audience, this could include venues highlighting them on their website, promoting them through social media and clear sign posting from the buildings entrance.  Staff awareness could also be improved. 

For example, I have often gone to large shopping centres to carry out work on a new or existing Changing Place and when I have arrived at the Information Centre to ask where it is I have been met with “sorry I will have to find out.” It would make such a difference if all staff at least knew what the Changing Places facility is, where it is situated and how visitors access it be it with a Radar key, key code etc.

Training is also vital. While many visitors will be familiar with the equipment found in a Changing Places facility as they will have similar items at home this will not always be the case. Therefore, I would advise that several people receive training once the installation is complete to ensure there is someone either available or contactable to advise should a user have an issue and require assistance. However, staff should not get involved in the manual handling.

People need to be as aware of them as they are of baby changing facilities, the last thing we want is organisations investing the money to include them in their buildings only for it to sit there unused.

Many Changing Places facilities will still be installed in an existing building. What challenges can this represent?

One of the biggest challenges is when the venue is a listed building as you cannot just start knocking down walls etc. and sometimes it is necessary to place the facility in an adjoining building or a portable unit. 

Unfortunately, on some occasions it is just not possible to carry out an installation. 

Space is also often an issue with an existing building along with finding a suitable location that is accessible for all potential users and large enough to house the Changing Places which must be at least 4m x 3m with a ceiling height of at least 2.4m if possible. Smaller Changing Places have been approved in the past but these minimum dimensions are acknowledged as best practice.

Over 250,000 people in the UK require Changing Places toilets to enable them to get out and about and enjoy the day-to-day activities which many of us take for granted. 

The Changing Places Consortium is a group of organisations working to support the rights of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and/or other physical disabilities. Established in 2006, the Consortium campaigns for Changing Places to be installed in all large public spaces so people can access their community.

One such family is the Baker family from Oxfordshire who have been using Changing Places for the last 13 years as their son Elliott has Kernicterus, a condition which has symptoms similar to athetoid Cerebral Palsy and Elliott’s mother Caroline explains how they have helped Elliott and the rest of the family: “From a parent’s perspective this new legislation is fantastic news and I just wish it had been put in place years ago. 

Changing Places facilities have certainly changed since Elliott was born but only really over the last few years and during this time, we have spent many hours changing Elliott in the boot of our car as there either wasn’t space or the disabled toilet was just too dirty.  Changing facilities make a huge difference and definitely influence our choice of location when we are planning a holiday or family days out.

Shopping centres are generally not great as you often have to share with the baby changing areas which is not ideal and tend to be busy and dirty so when you do find a Changing Places facility it makes such a huge difference. 

Awareness has increased to a degree but more needs to be done so children/teenagers and adults are no longer having to get changed on toilet floors which is just unacceptable in 2020.

Tags : changing places
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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