by Brianna Crandall — February 13, 2017 — A recent survey by Firefly Community, a group of 20,000 families with children who have special needs, highlighted an important need that stores, restaurants and other public venues could address to make it easier for these families to visit and do business with them. The survey found that:
- 97% of families surveyed said changing their child while out and about was a problem.
- 86% had to leave a venue early because of poor toilet facilities.
- 100% suffer from back pain (from lifting their child).
- 95% said either a height-adjustable or adult-sized changing bench would make their life easier on days out.
- 99% would be more likely to visit a venue if it improved its toilet changing facilities.
Claire Smyth, who runs Firefly’s Space to Change campaign, for wheelchair-accessible toilet facilities with a changing bench and hoist, observed:
The survey speaks for itself. Provide a hoist, bench, and you open your doors to up to 14 million disabled children and adults in the U.K., and their families, who need space, a bench, and/or hoist to toilet away from home.
Without these, those families either can’t visit, or leave early so spend less with you: that includes everything from doing the weekly shop, a trip to the town or shopping centre, a family meal out, or a tourist attraction. And we know that venues that have made that change are seeing tangible benefits — Cornwall Services, for example, has reported its facility is used daily and it has seen an increase in custom and spend as a result.
Robin Tuffley, marketing manager at Clos-o-Mat, which developed the Space to Change toilet layout and supports the campaign, added:
Even if there is no other toilet provided, venues have to at least have a unisex wheelchair-accessible toilet. Many unisex wheelchair-accessible toilets are already big enough to accommodate the bench and hoist; it’s a comparatively small capital equipment spend to add them. Even if they are not already big enough, it only requires an additional 1.6 m x 2 m of space….
Under the Equality Act, venues to which the public have access are required to anticipate the need and make “reasonable adjustments,” including to the built environment, if a disabled person would otherwise be at a “substantial” disadvantage.
Campaigners maintain having to lie a child or adult on a toilet floor to be changed because there are not suitable facilities represents that substantial disadvantage.
The concept of Space to Change toilets has been developed to ensure that the personal hygiene needs of people who need changing and lifting facilities for their personal care are met when away from home, as much as possible. It builds on a Regulatory (Document M) unisex wheelchair-accessible toilet, delivering a 7.5 sq m+ (3 m x 2.5 m minimum) toilet facility with an adult-sized changing bench and a hoist.