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The history of Changing Places

a changing places toilet
a changing places toilet Image credit: changing-places.org

Accessible loos aren’t usually the topic of conversations but for the team behind Changing Places it was a subject which never went down the pan.

Launched in 2005 a group of non-profit organisations and campaigners came together to make toilets accessible for all across the UK.

Their goal was to see Changing Places loos installed in every public space for disabled people.

The brainwave came from the late Loretto Lambe, founder and CEO of PAMIS (Promoting A More Inclusive Society), a voluntary organisation supporting children and adults with profound and multiple disabilities (PMLD)

In 2003 PAMIS released a short film highlighting the difficulties parents faced trying to change their babies on dirty toilet surfaces and in the back of mobility vehicles.

In parallel to the Scottish campaign Mencap, who had appointed Beverly Dawkins as the charity’s National Officer for PMLD, was concerned how inaccessible UK public toilets were for disabled people.

In 2004 Martin Jackaman from Nottingham City Council noticed this was also a problem for Day Services staff and families. Wanting to make a difference he launched a project team to devise a fully accessible toilet which was scheduled to open in the local area in July 2006.

The Department of Health Valuing People Team, launched in 2001, had the bright idea of bringing together PAMIS (Loretto Lambe and Joyce Burns Specialist Occupational Therapist), MENCAP (Beverly Dawkins OBE), Martin Jackaman and Cally Ward (PMLD Lead from the Valuing People Team) to form a Consortium with a vision to introduce fully accessible toilets across the UK.

With Mencap’s support the Consortium launched the Changing Places campaign at Tate Modern in July 2006 supported by disability campaigner Alison Lapper MBE.

Co-chaired by Lambe and Dawkins, the Consortium fought for justice on behalf of people with disabilities working with the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

By 2007 the Consortium had introduced 30 Changing Places around the country, but despite being similar there was no one agreed layout.

Working to the design produced by Nottingham City Council the Consortium worked with the British Standard to produce a fully accessible service which saw Changing Places toilets being included in the British Code of Practice, known as BS 8300, that sets out the requirements of how buildings should be designed, constructed and maintained to meet the needs of disabled people as well as create an accessible and inclusive environment for them.

By 2013 all the hard had paid off, the country saw more and more Changing Places being included in public toilets, alongside standard accessible toilets and links to the Changing Places website.

In November 2017 Muscular Dystrophy UK replaced Mencap as the co-chairs of the Consortium. 

July 19 is Changing Places Awareness Day 2022.