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Poor toilet facilities are flushing away customers

Venues and retail outlets could significantly increase the number of families visiting, and their length of stay, just by adapting accessible toilet facilities, according to a new survey carried out by Firefly Community – a group of 20,000 families with children who have special needs.

The results revealed that 97 per cent of the families surveyed said changing their child whilst out and about was a problem, 86 per cent had to leave a venue early because of poor toilet facilities, whilst 100 per cent said they suffer from back pain as a result of having to lift their child.

Under the Equality Act, venues to which the public have access are required to anticipate the need and make ‘reasonable adjustments’, including to the built environment, if a disabled person would otherwise be at a ‘substantial’ disadvantage. Campaigners of Firefly’s Space to Change campaign for wheelchair-accessible toilet facilities with a changing bench and hoist, maintain having to lie a child or adult on a toilet floor to be changed because there are not suitable facilities represents that ‘substantial’ disadvantage.

Ninety-five per cent of the survey’s respondents said that either a height adjustable or adult-sized changing bench would make their life easier on days out and 99 per cent said they would be more likely to visit a venue if it improved its toilet changing facilities.

Commenting on the results, Claire Smyth, who runs the Space to Change campaign said:

“The survey speaks for itself. Provide a hoist, bench, and you open your doors to up to 14 million disabled children and adults in the UK, and their families, who need space, a bench, and/or hoist to toilet away from home.

“Without these, those families either can’t visit, or leave early so spend less with you: that includes everything from doing the weekly shop, a trip to the town or shopping centre, a family meal out, or a tourist attraction. And we know that venues that have made that change are seeing tangible benefits- Cornwall Services, for example, has reported its facility is used daily and it has seen an increase in custom and spend as a result.”

The concept of Space To Change toilets has been developed to ensure that the personal hygiene needs of people who need changing and lifting facilities for their personal care are met when away from home, as much as possible. It builds on a Regulatory (Document M) unisex wheelchair-accessible toilet, delivering a 7.5m2+ (3m x 2.5m min) WC facility with an adult-sized changing bench and a hoist.

Clos-o-Mat, a supplier of disabled toilet solutions at home and away, has been instrumental in developing the Space To Change toilet layout, and working with campaigners and Firefly Community to promote the concept.

Robin Tuffley, marketing manager at Clos-o-Mat, supporter of the Space to Change campaign, commented:

“Even if there is no other toilet provided, venues have to at least have a unisex wheelchair-accessible toilet. Many unisex wheelchair accessible toilets are already big enough to accommodate the bench and hoist: it’s a comparatively small capital equipment spend to add them. Even if they are not already big enough, it only requires an additional 1.6m x 2m of space….”



About Sarah OBeirne

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