How do these challenges affect people with disabilities and their families/carers?
This lack of certainty about whether a venue will be suitable creates a lot of anxiety and puts a lot of disabled people off travelling.
In fact, the Access Survey found that 92% of disabled people do not feel confident about visiting new places. As a result, disabled people and those who support them tend to either visit the same places over and over again or not go out very much at all.
The impact on disabled people can be loneliness, social isolation and sometimes depression.
At the same time, venues are missing out on additional visitors and the revenue they bring.
Accessible tourism in the U.K – tourism where one or more members of a party is disabled – is currently worth £12.1 billion in the U.K. Imagine the potential if all tourism venues were accessible!
What about toilet access for people with severe disabilities – have you seen the impact a lack of suitable facilities can have on people?
Without Changing Places toilets, severely disabled people have the choice between not going out, just going out for a couple of hours at a time or face the prospect of being changed on a public toilet floor, something which is unhygienic, undignified and unacceptable in 21st century Britain.
We have both had to change our children on toilet floors over the year and there really is nothing worse. Most of us wouldn’t even like to have to put a bare foot on a toilet floor, let alone the rest of our body and when you are faced with the reality of having to do this, it really is quite depressing.
Apart from toilet floors, we have had to change our children on the back seat or boot of our cars, behind bushes and on one occasion on the tarmac at an airport surrounded by suitcases to try to create just a little privacy. Another parent we know had to cordon off an underpass with the help of others so that she could change her son in there.
If more places had Changing Places toilet facilities, what sort of impact do you think that would have on people with disabilities?
If there were more Changing Places toilets, severely disabled people and those who support them could get out and about and enjoy life to the full: something which most people take for granted.
It would mean that they could leave the house with confidence and spend a full day out with family and friends doing the things they love. This would have a massive impact on their health and well-being and that of the whole family.
What sort of businesses could be improved with the addition of Changing Places toilet facilities?
Any destination or venue where visitors are likely to spend time should have a Changing Places toilet. This includes town centres, shopping centres, railway stations, motorway services, hospitals, football clubs, theatres, leisure centres, supermarkets and cinemas etc.
Is it likely a business would see a return on the cost of installing a Changing Places toilet facility?
As well as having a positive impact on the health and well-being of disabled people, venues which install a Changing Places toilet see an increase in visitor numbers. This increase is not solely in the numbers of disabled people who visit but in general visitor numbers.
In deciding where to visit, parties with a disabled member are driven to those places which welcome the disabled person, so businesses don’t just benefit from the spend of the disabled person, they benefit from the spend of the entire party. What is more, when disabled people find somewhere that is welcoming, the 2017 Access Survey found that 86% will make a return visit.
Anything else you want to say about why you advocate for Changing Places?
Without doubt, the provision of Changing Places is the key enabler for the biggest piece of social change in a generation. We are incredibly proud to be a part of that and want to support any organisation who would like to get involved.
Changing Places are not just toilets: they are the key to a world of opportunity to those who need them and those who support them.
By providing Changing Places, organisations are making a huge difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Changing Places really do change lives.
Jane Cooper and Gillian Scotford run Access for All UK. Its aim is to improve the lives of disabled people in the UK by providing access consultancy, training, auditing and business support services.