Disability, My Life

Disability Education – Changing Places

One of the reoccurring issues that I have faced when out in public is the lack of the correct facilitated disabled toilets. Granted there are a number of disabled toilets already in existence, but they are poorly equipped for disabled people.

This was until ‘Changing Places’ was introduced…

‘Changing Places’ is a brand-new facility which is brand-new and refurbished for everyone with a disability.

Immediately, Changing Places’ sets the right image by bearing a radar key lock. This demonstrates the correct attitude and prevents able-bodied people from using it, allowing those who in direr need of it to take priority.

Once inside, the facility is very spacious and is well-equipped with all of the equipment that meets all needs of a disabled person.

An important piece of equipment that is in the ‘Changing Places’ facility is a ceiling, track hoist. This enables anyone, despite the extent of the disability can use all of the equipment, even if they are not able to transfer independently.

The ceiling track hoist is on an H track which means it goes horizontal and vertical, allowing the disabled person to access all the equipment in the facility. This includes the toilet and the profiling bed.

The toilet within each of the ‘Changing Places’ facilities are centrally placed at the back of the room. This enables parents and carers, who need to assist the disabled person on and off the toilet to get either side of them in order to support them more effectively, without having to struggle to get either side of the toilet, like they would in a standard sized disabled toilet.


Next to the ceiling hoist, a piece of equipment that I am really grateful for is a privacy curtain or screen. I don’t know about others, but I feel very intruded when people have to toilet me and help me with personal care. I am grateful for their help and support, but I do struggle to do to go to the toilet when I can feel someone looking at me or know they are waiting for me. So, the privacy curtain or screen allows me to feel less self-conscious.

The ‘Changing Places’ facilities do not have a baby change facility with it, so this prevents a lot of waste and improves the cleanliness.

Still facilitating the needs of all disabled people, ‘Changing Places’ facilities have a height adjustable adult-sized changing bed/bench.

This accommodates those people with more profound disabilities and/or multiple learning disabilities, who may be slightly incontinent and cannot use the toilet independently.

The height adjustable adult-sized changing bed/bench has access to a wide tear off paper roll to cover the bench. After use, the bed/bench can be wiped down or the paper can be disposed of, ready for the next use, increasing the overall hygienic levels.

Leading on from this, the ‘Changing Places’ has a large waste bin for disposable pads and other such waste, so that people don’t have to worry about being discrete and conscious of where they are disposing the waste.

All of the ‘Changing Places’ facilities have non-slip floors. This reassures all the disabled people that are using the facilities that they don’t have to be too unsteady on their feet as the floor will not have items all over the floor as the floor should help you keep your balance.

The ‘Changing Places’ facility is a safe and clean environment, compared to the standard sized disabled toilets. It is maintained by the use of the radar key. People who do use the facility are respectful of the facility and each one that I have been in, I have seen that everyone that has used it has maintained the pristine environment they found it because they know how important and beneficial it is to them and people who are in similar situations to them.

When you go into public and you find a ‘Changing Places’ facilities, I would inquire whether the toilet is in working order. It’s better to be forewarned as to whether it is in working order, rather than being desperate for the toilet and finding it’s out of order.

Though there are the ‘Changing Places’ is well-equipped, I would take your own radar key and your own sling with you, ready to use. If you forget your radar key with you on that customer services will have one they can give to you, which you can return after use.


These facilities have revolutionised public disabled toilets. Before they were introduced, there were three types of disabled toilets, a disabled toilet with a standard lock, a disabled and baby-changing toilet with a standard lock and a disabled toilet, bearing a radar key lock.

The disabled toilets with the standard locks are the most infuriating to me. It allows anyone, disabled or not to gain access to it. I cannot tell you how many times I have been waiting outside a standard locked disabled toilet, which is engaged and found it is an able-bodied person with no disability using it. People abuse it and use the facility because they don’t want to queue to use the men or women’s toilets.

I have also found that these disabled toilets are also restricted in space. Having to be lifted from my wheelchair onto the toilet by my parents, it is difficult for us to move around without knocking full waste bins over, while we try to fit and move in the facility. It is really uncomfortable and tense. I feel like I need to go quickly so we can get out of there. To avoid the agro of my parents and I facing able-bodied people or struggling in the restricted space, we cut out the middleman and I try to make myself to hold on until I go home.

The disabled toilets that have a nappy change facility with a standard lock have even more restricted space because of the extra facility and the number of full waste bins. So, if someone like me who is in a wheelchair comes along, they will struggle to use the facility. I know I do and that’s with my parents’ assistance. I have been in there and tissue is discarded across the floor and water is splatted everywhere. It’s not regularly attended too and able-bodied people, who use the toilets see it as an opportunity to increase the amount of waste and not bother to clean up after themselves.

This is really unsafe for any disabled person, especially those who can transfer independently. They could really slip and fall due to the poor condition of the disabled toilets. Then if there is not anyone to help them, there could be a risk of them not being able to get up and may be stuck there for a while, before anyone finds them.

People have no respect for the toilets and don’t consider how unsafe it can be for a disabled person, whatever the disability is and frankly, they smell foul.


On a more positive side, there has been a growth in parent/child bathrooms around supermarkets and shopping centres (that’s a mall to the US reader). This is a good sign and hopefully means that the disabled toilets in those supermarkets or shopping centres are going to become disabled only compared to if supermarkets or shopping centres didn’t have these parent/child bathrooms.

In keeping with these positive changes, there are a smaller number of disabled toilets with the radar scheme. Having a radar key lock means only those who can access these keys can use the facilities behind the door, which bears the radar key lock. It stops people abusing the facility and enables those who are in real need of this toilet to use it. Priorities have been established.

Though this a good step in the right direction, I don’t think the radar key operated toilets are much bigger than the standard ones. Disabled people are able to have easy access to it, but the restricted space within the facility is still a challenge.


‘Changing Places has changed shopping centres and public exhibitions as it well equipped for all people in the disabled community, particularly for those who cannot transfer independently or may need to use the changing bed.

This really is a positive change in the world of disability and shows that adaptions are being put into place. I have seen a ‘Changing Places’ facility in Birmingham Bullring, Grand Central Birmingham, West Quay, Southampton and Cadbury World.

I know I am still to discover more, but they still exist in a small number in the UK. They really need to become regular and frequent in all the big venues. I think they needed in addition to disabled toilets.

‘Changing Places’ are new territory and are eagerly promoted. The facility has an active Facebook and Twitter pages which encourage people to share their ‘Changing Places’ story as well as the on-going growth of the number of facilities positioned throughout the country.

‘Changing Places can be found via http://www.uktoiletmap.org

More information about ‘Changing Places’ facilities can be found here:  http://www.changing-places.org/

You can find your nearest ‘Changing Places’ facility can be found via the ‘Changing Places’ app so you can track the nearest facility when you are out and about.

Let the evolution of ‘Changing Places’ begin.




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