Michael McEwan: It’s a matter of dignity that public toilets should be accessible for all

Ben Wray

MIchael McEwan, CS columnist and chairperson of his local disability group, says that it’s a basic human right that everyone should have access to an accessible toilet – one campaign is trying to make that a reality

THE accessibility of buildings are commonly raised in media debate but less discussed is accessibility of toilets, those which are designed to accommodate people with disabilities and long term health conditions.

An organisation here in Scotland called Promoting A More Inclusive Scotland (PAMIS), who celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2017, is responsive to the needs of people, to support, innovate and push for more accessible toilets. They run a campaign called Changing Places.

The purpose of Changing Places toilets is to enable people with a disability to gain prompt access to facilities that might be different from regular toilets by making use of available space, layout of equipment, flooring and lighting.

READ MORE: STUC demands ‘urgent action’ to end major shortage of accessible housing for disabled Scots

Changing Place toilets were included in British Standards BS8300, which means that they should be included in all new larger building and complexes such as:

  • Large train stations
  • Sports and leisure facilities
  • Culture centres such as concert halls and art galleries
  • Shopping centres
  • Hospitals

Each Changing Places should have at the very minimum:

  • A height adjustable adult sized changing bench
  • A tracking hoist system or a mobile hoist if this is not possible
  • Adequate space in the changing area for the person with a disability and a carer
  • A centrally placed toilet with a room either side
  • A screen or curtain to allow some privacy
  • A safe and clean environment
  • Wide tear off paper roll to cover the bench
  • A large waste bin for disposable pads
  • A non slip floor

Outdoor events are now more accessible. PAMIS acquired the first Scottish mobile Changing Place toilet, called the Pamiloo which can be used by families and sourced for bespoke events held by organisations to provide fully accessible toilet facilities.

Previously in Galloway Forest Park, the parents of a young disabled child named Brody had to change him in the car or on the floor of a non-accessible toilet. But after PAMIS installed a Changing Place toilet, that problem was solved.

READ MORE: Colette Walker: A new approach to public infrastructure? Start by making buildings accessible

Currently there are just 199 changing places toilets around Scotland, which is nowhere near enough to meet people’s needs. This is a real gap in fulfilling a basic human right.

Picture courtesy of Marco Verch