Changing Places: Susan's Story
Changing Places – Susan’s Story
My son has profound learning disability, but just like everyone else, he needs a social life and enjoys being able to get out of the home and visit places. There are many things that make it difficult for my son to get out and about however, and one of the biggest barriers is a lack of changing place toilet facilities.
Without Changing Places, it’s impossible for many people, and their families and carers to visit and enjoy social places that the majority of us take for granted. For anyone unfamiliar with Changing Places, put simply, they are toilet facilities that give better access than standard disabled toilets through the provision of additional facilities such as an adult sized changing bed and hoist.
My son relies on his parents and carers for all aspects of his care and daily living. Without access to a Changing Place toilet, our choices are to either stay at home, or risk visiting a place where on arrival, we might have to turn around and go back home if it turns out our son does need changed by the time we get to our destination. Alternatively, we usually head home after a very short time at any particular place. Our home city is Edinburgh where there are currently very few Changing Place toilet facilities. Currently, ten facilities are registered on the Changing Places map for Edinburgh. It’s great to have these facilities, but we need more Changing Places in venues which have social activity and facilities that are accessible to everyone, and not just for places of business or work.
It would be wonderful to see places of entertainment, leisure, retail, country park visitor centres, and lots of other everyday places, make more effort to include everyone in their venues by taking action to install Changing Places toilets on their premises. Despite the best efforts of family and friends to accommodate my son’s needs, my son and family members who care for him have had to miss important events such as family weddings because most venues don’t have Changing Places. Other people involved in my son’s care over the years, including carers and school staff, have also been in the difficult position of having to constantly assess the risks in planning trips, whether there might be a risk to my son’s dignity and health where there are no suitable toilet facilities for him to use, or whether he will end up being excluded from a trip.
In 2017, I had the pleasure of finding out about Disabled Access Day and enjoyed a visit to a participating venue in Edinburgh. After lapping up the accessible tours within the venue, I had the opportunity to provide feedback and highlighted the specific problem of access and inclusion for my son and family/carers through a lack of Changing Place toilet provision. To my delight, the venue I visited recognised the benefits to everyone of having Changing Places toilets, and took action to look into installation of facilities.
It would seem that sometimes organisations are not always aware of the barriers encountered by people, and therefore don’t always know how to take access and inclusion forward. Having Disabled Access Day is a great opportunity for everyone to learn more about the great work going on to increase access for all, and also to share ideas of how we can all help each other to become more inclusive. I would recommend to anyone thinking about getting involved in Disabled Access Day – don’t hesitate.