Yorkshire businesses collaborate on unique ‘Changing Places’ facility to help tackle isolation

Changing Places facility in a Portakabin unit

Dedicated to providing an accessible and inclusive environment, Yorkshire-based companies, Innova Care Concepts and Portakabin, worked with PAMIS and the National Galleries of Scotland to install a Changing Places facility at the gallery’s Modern One site.

In the UK, more than 250,000 people need personal assistance to use the toilet or change continence pads, this includes people with spinal injuries or profound and multiple disabilities.

Explaining how they identified a need for a Changing Places facility, Meg Faragher, Communities Learning Coordinator for the Education Department at the National Galleries of Scotland said:

“During our Disabled Access day in 2017, we asked visitors for feedback on how we could improve their experience.

“We learned that because of the nature of caring for someone with complex needs, if one person is unable to visit a venue, because their personal care needs can’t be met, it means the whole family is excluded. This was something we wanted to do something about.”

Although the Equality Act 2010 ensures facilities provide equal access to toilets for customers or visitors with a disability; standard accessible toilets do not provide the appropriate space or equipment for people who need personal assistance to use the toilet.

Innova, Yorkshire-based care equipment specialists, supplied and installed all equipment required for the Changing Places facility.

Bob Oliver, Innova’s Projects Director, described what makes Changing Places different:

“The equipment in a Changing Places toilet is more comprehensive than that of a standard accessible toilet. They include a height-adjustable adult-size changing bench and sink so users of different heights, or with different size wheelchairs can use the facilities as they require.

“The most important part of the facility is the ceiling hoist, which covers the entire space by using an x-y system to ensure a person can be moved from their wheelchair to the toilet or changing bench and back to their chair with ease.”

Without these appropriate facilities, people with profound and multiple disabilities are forced to be laid on unhygienic toilet floors or feel unable to leave their homes.

However, installing a Changing Places toilet at the National Galleries of Scotland initially proved challenging due to the Modern One’s listed building status.

Emma Anderson, Portaloo Scotland Manager at Portakabin, explained the unique way they overcame the issue:

“The team was unable to make the significant internal works required to provide a Changing Places toilet inside the building.

“But the Portaloo Accessible Plus unit is a standalone building, which means it can be placed almost anywhere on a site without major disruption. Our team was able to safely install the building within one day and have the facility ready for visitors to use as quickly as possible.

“We’re dedicated to working with as many businesses and tourist attractions as possible to become fully accessible so that we can reduce that feeling of isolation people with disabilities and their families face.”

Currently, there are less than 1,430 Changing Places toilets in the UK, with just 205 of these located in Scotland.

Fiona Souter, Information and Inclusive Communities Director at PAMIS, said:

“There are very few Changing Places toilets available in Scotland, only six of these are at museums. To have a facility at the National Galleries of Scotland is so important as it ensures that people with profound and complex disabilities are able to access a cultural venue.”

The Changing Places Consortium, which was co-founded by PAMIS in 2005, campaigns for Changing Places toilets to be installed in all large public spaces.

All parties this project hope the new Changing Places facility will prove useful for anyone near the centre of Edinburgh. As it is placed in the grounds of the gallery, next to accessible parking, users won’t have to go inside or ask permission to use the facility.