From university and college campuses to entertainment venues and motorway service stations, any site that caters to the public has a duty to provide accessibility. While ramps, lifts, and electrically operated doors are effective steps toward greater accessibility, the washrooms often suffer from gross oversight.
Many have come to consider accessible or disabled washrooms as being just a few grab rails and an emergency pull cord, and while the level of accessibility may come down to what’s feasible in existing premises, new developments are bound by Document-M of Building Regulations to provide a certain level of accessibility to those with disabilities.
However, there are a lot of disabilities that aren’t catered for under the existing Document-M guidelines and as such, this should be treated as a ‘bare minimum’ when it comes to providing washroom facilities. Users with conditions like muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy not only need more dynamic washroom facilities but may also require the assistance of a carer.
Changing Places: A national movement
Changing Places is a consortium that’s been running since 2006 to help provide a network of fully accessible washrooms. These are washrooms that allow users suffering from things like motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, and a wide range of learning difficulties, to use the toilet in both safety and comfort.
To date, there are almost 1500 registered Changing Places, which are listed to enable users to plan outings accordingly and serves as a database for both users and carers. Providing this kind of washroom provision significantly increases the level of the accessibility of your site and allows all customers to use your facilities with dignity, regardless of disability. You can find a full list of requirements on the Changing Places website, but here we delve into some of the key components:
The need for changing tables
One of the most valuable items in a Changing Places washroom is the height-adjustable changing table. These units allow carers to change grown children and adults much more easily and in a manner that doesn’t require a user to lay on the floor. These changing tables are also installed in leisure centres and swimming pools to facilitate easy changing, and also cater to a wider range of groups and users in the community.
Making the experience easy and comfortable.
In order to safely guide users to the toilet, washbasin, and changing table, many carers require a hoist. This is a crucial requirement for all Changing Places washrooms and one that opens up access to your site to a diverse range of users.
Getting the space right
One of the first things you’ll notice about Changing Places washrooms is the generous amount of space dedicated to manoeuvring. That’s because there will often be at least two people in the room - the user and carer. Changing Places actually recommends a minimum of 12sqm (3m x 4m), enough space to accommodate up to two carers as well as the user. Ample space is also given to the toilet, where space is required either side of the toilet pan for carers to assist. The ceiling should also be 2.4m high, this is to allow enough space for a ceiling-mounted, track system hoist.
Design and planning
Fully accessible Changing Places washrooms make a huge stride in the direction of assisting users with muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, and a vast array of other special needs and learning difficulties. With clever planning and design, you can accommodate all of the dimensions, fixtures, and specialist fittings relatively simply and in continuation of modern washroom design. Whether it’s in a hospital, day centre or physiotherapy studio, or in educational and entertainment settings, Commercial Washrooms can provide a turn-key washroom refurbishment service, taking care of all the design, specification, and installation processes.
How we serve customers, visitors and the wider community has never been more vital. Businesses with purpose are at the forefront of the industry, reshaping the retail and entertainment experience, as well as the expectations of both employees and end-users alike. As we push forward to deliver increasingly more dynamic services to customers, guests, and visitors, it’s now more important than ever to consider the diversity of washroom needs.
If you would like more advice on Changing Places, and how we can take care of the process of incorporating one into your site, please get in touch with one of the team on 01202 650900.