An international concept, born and developed in Nottingham, which has ‘changed the lives’ of disabled people is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Back in 2006 a project team from Nottingham City Council created a new type of disabled toilet which was introduced in Greyhound Street, off Old Market Square.
The toilets are specially-designed for children and adults with complex needs, are larger than a standard disabled toilet, and include a hoist with overhead tracks and a changing bench, plus extra space for carers and wheelchairs.
The idea was to make more areas of Nottingham accessible to a group of people who may not otherwise be able to visit with comfort and confidence.
A decade on and there are now 850 Changing Places toilets across the UK, including 15 in the city. They have been installed at Wembley Stadium, Old Trafford and Emirates stadiums, the NEC and O2 Arena, Heathrow, Gatwick and East Midlands airports, King’s Cross station, Welcome Break and Moto service stations, and numerous major shopping centres.
Further afield, they have been introduced in Australia and Germany, with campaigns currently on-going in the US, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.
The idea originated in 2005 and was driven by local man Martin Jackaman, who at the time was Day Services Modernisation Manager at the City Council.
A report the previous year by PAMIS, a voluntary organisation in Scotland supporting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, identified that one of the major barriers affecting families was a lack of fully-accessible toilets.
Mr Jackaman, who has since had a day centre in Aspley named after him, led a team set up by the City Council with a brief to design an ‘away-from-home toilet for children and adults with complex care needs’. This was in addition to standard disabled toilets, which are designed for independent use.
In 2006, the same year the new toilet opened in Greyhound Street, The National Changing Places Consortium was established and The Changing Places – Changing Lives campaign launched to improve facilities for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, head injuries, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke survivors and injured veterans.
Mr Jackaman, who is now retired but a still a volunteer member of the consortium, said: “I am so proud that Nottingham City Council took a courageous decision to include this facility when the Greyhound Street toilets were modernised in 2006.
“This has been an amazing journey which has changed lives, and enabled families and people with complex care needs to do the things everyone else takes for granted, like having a night out at the Motorpoint Arena, travelling across the UK, or visiting major sporting or leisure venues.”
Councillor Eunice Campbell, who worked closely with Mr Jackaman on the project, said: “One of our key priorities will always be to improve Nottingham for everyone. Nipping to the toilet while out and about is easy to take for granted, but we realised it was very difficult for some disabled people and their carers to access facilities and, in many cases, was putting them off a trip into town.
“Through the hard work of Martin Jackaman and his dedicated team, we were able to create a design for a specialised toilet for people with severe disabilities. We introduced the first one in Greyhound Street and then worked to encourage more venues locally to follow suit.
“Nottingham should be immensely proud that, 10 years on, there are now 850 of these disabled facilities across the UK and more starting to be introduced around the world. These will have improved the lives of thousands of people.”
Rossanna Trudgian, co-chair of the Changing Places Consortium, said: “It is fantastic to see more and more Changing Places toilets being installed across the UK as we celebrate 10 years of campaigning.
“However, there are still many large public places across the UK that lack Changing Places toilets and, together with our campaign sponsors Aveso, we will continue to work to make sure every single one of the 250,000 people in the UK who require a Changing Places toilet can access one.”