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Paralympian campaigns for accessible toilets in sporting venues

Anne Wafula Strike

Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike is fronting a campaign urging the government to introduce fully accessible toilets at sporting venues across the UK. At present less than 10 percent of venues offer these facilities.

Wafula Strike has written to the sports minister, Lucy Frazer and disability minister, Tom Pursglove, saying not having accessible toilets at sporting venues is a “serious injustice” and stopping disabled people from participating in sporting activity.

Accessible loos fall into two categories, ones large enough to accommodate standard wheelchairs with a height-adjusted toilet and sink, the other type is spacious enough for power-assisted wheelchairs, disabled people who require one or two carers, those who need a hoist, adult-sized changing table and space on both side of the toilet so they have space to manoeuvre. 

Despite the government already investing more than £30m to install changing places toilets, campaigners say more needs to be done.

The new campaign, supported by Rise For Sport, wants to see every sporting venue to have a fully accessible toilet.

Wafula Strike’s letter highlights the fact there is no legal requirement for existing venues to offer a changing places facility.

The Paralympian states: “This is an urgent issue and needs to be addressed by a change in legislation to ensure that disabled people are not left behind.

“Sport is such an important part of society. It has played a huge role in my life and it is saddening to hear disabled people face barriers to access.”

In addition to the letter three disabled sport fans have launched their own petition urging the government to introduce changing places at all UK sporting venues.

Lorna Fillingham, whose daughter has a rare genetic condition, told The Guardian: “My daughter cannot stand or walk. She needs 24-hour support. I wouldn’t even consider taking her to a sporting event because of the lack of changing places toilets. Disabled people talk about ‘pee maths’, limiting fluids so they won’t need to use a toilet while they’re out. At the age of 13 my daughter’s world should be expanding but it’s shrinking.”

A government spokesperson said: “We want to see a step-change in the number of changing places toilets across the country. We recently announced up to £30.5m funding to local authorities in England to boost the number of larger accessible toilets over three years. Changing places toilets are a vital facility for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets and for their family and carers.

“That’s why they will be installed in existing buildings and we have made it compulsory for new public buildings to have them, including sports stadiums.”

There are more than 250,000 disabled people in the UK who require a changing places toilet, but only 1,893 of the accessible toilets are registered across the country.

[ Anne Wafula Strike was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to disability sport and charity. ]

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