Standard accessible toilets are a common sight when you are out and about – you see them at work, at the shops, in hospitals, entertainment venues and at most public places in cities, suburbs and in the country. This is fantastic for people with disability, as it makes outings of all kinds possible, without the worry of finding an accessible toilet when it’s needed.
But how many Changing Places facilities have you seen? The answer, most likely, is not many – and this is something that must change.
Equal Access is a member of the ‘Changing Places’ technical advisory group and are was instrumental in the development of the Information Guide & Technical Standard for Australia.
We offer a full consulting service to assist with the development of Changing Places facilities. Typical staging is as follows:
Desktop review of the architectural documentation and the preparation of an accessibility report that highlights the key access issues to ensure that the proposed works can achieve compliance with the relevant disability access standards and legislation
Desktop review of architectural documentation and preparation of an accessibility report that highlights the key access issues to ensure that the proposed works can achieve compliance with the relevant disability access standards and legislation. This assessment includes reviewing all fittings and fixture schedules.
Desktop review of architectural documentation, including fittings and fixtures schedules, photographs of the as-built facility, completed ACD inspection form and provide certification for issuing to ACD.
Changing Places is a project that aims to raise awareness around Australia and across the world, about the need for full-sized change tables and hoists in public toilets. Changing Places began in the UK in 2005 and is made up of a group of organisations working together to support the rights of people that require a higher level of physical support when in the community. The group advocates for Changing Places facilities to be installed in all big public places so people everywhere, including people with disability, can enjoy their community.
You may not know where to find a Changing Places facility – or even what they are. Changing Places facilities are accessible to people with high support needs and they are very different from standard accessible toilets. Standard accessible toilets are suitable for people with disability who can independently use a toilet and can transfer themselves safely to and from their wheelchair.
Changing Places facilities are provided for use by people with high physical support needs and their carer, or carers. This includes people with multiple learning disabilities and other serious impairments such as muscular dystrophy, spinal injuries, acquired brain injury or multiple sclerosis.
Why are Changing Places facilities important?
For people who require the assistance of a carer, Changing Places facilities make a huge difference when they are out and about. They provide a clean, safe and appropriate place for them to change and use the toilet when they are travelling or visiting public places – which is something that most people take for granted.
Unfortunately, all too often, adequate facilities are not available for people that require a higher level of pysical support when in the community. This forces them to be changed on a dirty and unhygienic toilet floor and to use facilities that are not suitable. This situation is undignified and in many cases, it forces people with high physical support needs or impairment to not go out at all.
What makes a Changing Places facility different?
There are a number of essential requirements that make up a Changing Places facility. It must have enough space, the right equipment and provide a safe and clean environment.
A Changing Places facility must include a peninsula toilet, with room on either side for up to two carers. This is unlike a standard accessible toilet which is often placed right next to the wall and is an important feature as it allows the carers to stand on either side of the toilet to assist. There also needs to be adequate space in a designated changing area for the person with a disability and up to two carers to move freely, plus a screen or curtain to provide privacy.
It should be noted that providing a peninsula toilet will not meet the prescriptive requirements of an AS 1428.1:2009 accessible toilet therefore Changing Places toilets must be provided in addition to a standard accessible toilet.
Change table and hoist
In terms of equipment, Changing Places facilities must include a height-adjustable adult-sized changing bench and a room coverage hoist system to assist the carers when lifting the person requiring assistance.
In addition to the above, all Changing Places toilets should include a non-slip floor for safety. And for hygiene, there must also be a wipes dispenser to clean the change table after user and a large waste bin for disposable pads.
Where should Changing Places facilities be available?
Ideally, Changing Places facilities should be available everywhere that you would find a public toilet. This includes places like airports, train stations, city centres, entertainment venues, shopping centres, libraries, hospitals and service stations.
It’s important to provide both standard accessible toilets and Changing Places toilets for the public and to note they are not interchangeable, as they cater to different user groups who have quite different needs.
What does the law say about Changing Places facilities?
Currently, there is no requirement in the Building Code of Australia that requires that the type of equipment you would find in a Changing Places toilet to be provided in a standard accessible toilet. Under the Building Code of Australia (BCA) or Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 the provision of Changing Places facilities must be in addition to the legislated required accessible toilets, not as a replacement.
If you are considering installing a Changing Places facility, or you’re a builder looking for information on design guidelines, there are now four recommended Changing Places designs for Australia that are available to view and download. For a facility to be a registered Changing Place facility you must design to these specifications or have any variations approved by the Changing Places Team.
Equal Access is proud to have assisted Changing Places in creating these guidelines and to support the project and its aim to install more of these facilities throughout the country.
For people with high physical support needs and other serious impairments, and for the people who care for them, having access to Changing Places facilities in big public places makes a huge difference to their lives. It allows them to enjoy all their community has to offer – from public events and leisure activities to simple outings to the shops.
As more Changing Places facilities are built and installed throughout Australia, more people are able to get out and enjoy life to the fullest, without the fear and stress of not having appropriate facilities to use as needed. The Changing Places project has already had a massive impact on many people’s lives, and through their ongoing efforts, they will continue to do so.
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