Alison Thewliss MP has joined disability rights campaigners today to call on the Government to make Changing Places toilets compulsory in new buildings to ensure that all people with disabilities can have access to a basic right – the use of a toilet.
Without a Changing Places toilet available, disabled children have to be changed on dirty toilet floors or in the back of cars. Their carers often have no choice but to use manual moving and handling techniques that are considered too dangerous for nurses to use in a hospital setting. Disabled teenagers and adults have little choice but to either sit in soiled continence products or limit their time out of the house to a couple of hours at a time.
The campaign is being led by Lorna Fillingham and Anne Wafula Stike MBE, who have travelled to Downing Street today to present their 51,000 signature strong petition to the Government.
The petition demands that Changing Places toilets be included in plans before planning permission is granted and that the facilities be incorporated into any refurbishments or redevelopments of existing buildings.
Alison Thewliss MP said:
“In the UK in 2018 it is unacceptable that people are finding themselves in positions where they are having to be changed on dirty toilet floors or in the back of cars. How we design our public buildings is a choice we make, and it cannot be a justifiable choice to prevent someone from accessing the basic right of a toilet. I fully support the Changing Places campaign.”
Ms Fillingham, whose own experience is of caring for her seven-year-old daughter, a wheelchair user with global development delay, led her to start this petition from improved facilities for disabled people.
Discussing the regulations that she is campaigning for the Government to adopt, Lorna Fillingham said:
“This would mean a year on year guaranteed increase in facilities, it would give dignity and freedom back to the disabled community. It would mean that there would be a future where no-one had to be changed on a toilet floor. These are basic human rights, the most vulnerable people in society are being affected by a wholly preventable situation.”
The campaign is also supported by Paralympic athlete and prominent disability rights campaigner Anne Wafula Strike MBE, who experienced first-hand the impact of a lack of disabled toilet facilities when she was forced to wet herself on a CrossCountry train service.
Discussing this petition, Ms Strike said:
“This is a very important campaign and I hope this issue is considered seriously by those in power. Law and policy affects people’s lives and it should be about giving value and dignity to every human being, no matter our abilities and differences. It is not right that disabled people and their families are continuously having to validate our existence and debate our humanity again and again over basic rights such as provision and use of an accessible toilet.”
Changing Places facilities come equipped with a hoist, adult changing bench, toilet and plenty of space for carers which are a necessity for people with physical and learning disabilities. Despite being vital to the sanitation and dignity of a quarter of a million people across the UK, there are currently only 1071 of these toilets available, with many towns lacking a single facility. In comparison, Wembley Stadium alone has 2618 toilets.