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Changing Places Toilets in the Outdoors

3rd May 2022

People with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well as other disabilities that severely limit mobility, cannot typically use standard accessible toilets. Changing Places Toilets are becoming widely recognised for their role as a critical component to providing inclusive experiences, whether visiting a place of education, work, the shops, or having a day out sightseeing or participating in outdoor activities.

The campaign for Changing Places Toilets is overseen by the Changing Places Consortium. The Consortium’s vital role includes:

  • setting the technical standards for Changing Places Toilets
  • registration of the facilities as they are developed
  • inclusion of facilities on an online interactive map essential for end users to plan trips away from home.

Karen Hoe, Changing Places Development Officer at Muscular Dystrophy UK, provides useful insight into the vital work of the Consortium here, and outlines why it is essential to engage with the Consortium at the earliest stage of developing a Changing Places toilet.

 

Recent research by the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers has shown that Country Parks, Open Spaces, and Seaside locations ranked top in the type of places people would like to see Changing Places provided. Further insight provided within Outscape’s People in the Outdoors Monitor indicates that ‘poor health or a physical disability’ is a barrier to visiting the outdoors more often. The outdoor recreation sector is striving to do better to remove the barriers to accessing the outdoors and must do so in a way that does not leave anyone behind. Not all outdoor experiences will be suitable for all people, but as a sector we will embrace every opportunity to increase engagement with the outdoors through a sustainable approach to widening participation that considers everyone.

Alix Crawford, Founder and Chairperson of the Mae Murray Foundation, offers insight into Changing Places Toilets as a critical element of enabling participation in outdoor activities, and the difference that makes to people’s lives, here.

Northern Ireland is gradually experiencing an encouraging increase in provision of Changing Places Toilets and is likely to continue to do so as new building regulations start to influence the way buildings are designed. However, Changing Places Toilets provision in the outdoors arguably lags that within indoor venues such as leisure centres, supermarkets and shops, education, and hospital settings. Factors such as a required minimum 12m2 space, specific layout, specialist equipment, and the need to regularly service and provide an excellent standard of hygiene can too often be off-putting to the prospective and often well-meaning outdoor experience designer or provider, who ultimately needs the weight of a supportive team around them to ensure a successful Changing Places toilet installation.

Many development constraints can be overcome through good communication with the Changing Places Consortium from a very early stage, and through ongoing engagement with people from surrounding areas with the experience of living with disability. Jennifer Parkinson, Environmental Health Manager (Health & wellbeing) at Ards and North Down Borough Council, provides a case study here  of the development of a Changing Place at Groomsport Beach, County Down. Jennifer describes how the Council overcame space and planning constraints to achieve a full standard Changing Places Toilet as well as a disability equipment store, meaning that Groomsport now has one of Northern Ireland’s first inclusive beaches!

Changing Places Toilets in the Outdoors: Toolkit

Outscape has prepared a toolkit as a point of reference for developing Changing Places in the Outdoors. This work has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and is the outcome of engagement with Changing Places Toilet users, the Changing Places Consortium, and disability organisations.

The toolkit offers a simple 5-step approach to developing a Changing Places Toilet and is supported by helpful links to policy and strategy, design standards and guidance, and best practice. The Toolkit also provides scenario-based indicative costs to assist in early-stage planning.

Download the Toolkit

Contact Project Officer, Dr Claire McLernon by e-mail: c.mclernon@out-scape.com for queries about the Changing Places in the Outdoors Toolkit.

Outscape hosted a webinar for key stakeholders on 12th April 2022, with valuable contributions from representatives from the Changing Places Consortium, the Mae Murray Foundation, and Ards and North Down Borough Council. View the whole webinar below: