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Fully accessible ‘Changing Places’ facility tackles isolation


In the UK, more than 250,000 people need personal assistance to use the toilet or change continence pads, this includes people with spinal injuries or profound and multiple disabilities. Currently there are less than 1,430 Changing Places toilets in the UK, with just 205 of these located in Scotland.

Although the Equality Act 2010 ensures facilities provide equal access to toilets for customers or visitors with a disability; standard accessible toilets do not provide the appropriate space or equipment for people who need personal assistance to use the toilet.

Without appropriate facilities, which include a ceiling tracking hoist and a height-adjustable adult-size changing bench, people with profound and multiple disabilities are forced to be laid on unhygienic toilet floors or feel unable to leave their homes.

Dedicated to providing an accessible and inclusive environment, the National Galleries of Scotland worked with PAMIS, Portakabin and Innova to install a Changing Places facility on their Modern One site.

Faragher, Communities Learning Coordinator, Education Department at the National Galleries of Scotland said, “During our Disabled Access day in 2017, we asked visitors for feedback on how we could improve their experience.

“We learned that because of the nature of caring for someone with complex needs, if one person is unable to visit a venue, because their personal care needs can’t be met, it means the whole family is excluded. This was something we wanted to do something about.

“There aren’t many publicly available Changing Places toilets in Edinburgh but we hope that by placing the facility in the grounds of the gallery, next to accessible parking, users won’t have to go inside or ask permission to use the facility. This means that we’re providing a useful facility for anyone near the centre of Edinburgh.”

Emma Anderson, Portaloo Scotland Manager at Portakabin said, “As the National Galleries of Scotland Modern One is a listed building, the team was unable to make the significant internal works required to provide a Changing Places toilet.

“The Portaloo Accessible Plus unit is a standalone building, which means it can be placed almost anywhere on a site without major disruption. Our team was able to safely install the building within one day and have the facility ready for visitors to use as quickly as possible.

“We’re dedicated to working with as many businesses and tourist attractions as possible to become fully accessible so that we can reduce that feeling of isolation people with disabilities and their families face.” 

Fiona Souter, Information and Inclusive Communities Director at PAMIS said, “There are very few Changing Places toilets available in Scotland, only six of these are at museums. To have a facility at the National Galleries of Scotland is so important as it ensures that people with profound and complex disabilities are able access a cultural venue.”

Bob Oliver, Projects Director at Innova said, “The equipment in a Changing Places toilet is more comprehensive than that of a standard accessible toilet. Facilities include a height-adjustable changing bench and sink so users of different heights, or with different size wheelchairs are able to use the facilities as they require.

“The most important part of the facility is the ceiling hoist, which covers the entire space by using an x-y system to ensure a person can be moved from their wheelchair to the toilet or changing bench and back to their chair with ease.”

The Changing Places Consortium, which was cofounded by PAMIS in 2005, campaigns for Changing Places toilets to be installed in all large public spaces.

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