Changing Place enables those with severe disabilities to use the public facilities most of us take for granted. Mary Garboden meets the manager of the Nottingham project that won Community Care’s 2006 carers’ award
Many people are restricted to staying at home, unable to go shopping or out for a walk, because of a lack of facilities that others take for granted.
This is the situation experienced by many parents and carers of people with profound and multiple learning difficulties and other severely disabled people who require more than standard disabled toilets offer.
That is why Nottingham Council set up the Changing Place project team to design a disabled facility for public places such as shopping centres, hospitals, and art venues.
“Better health care across the board means that people are living with a range of complex needs,” says Martin Jackaman, project manager of learning disability day services in Nottingham. “Society is not ready – the facilities out there do not offer the proper level of support. The social consequences of improved healthcare need to be addressed.”
The Nottingham Council project team won the carers category of the Community Care Award 2006 for raising awareness of these issues with its installation of a Changing Place toilet in Nottingham.
“Not that Nottingham is the first to come up with the idea of a Changing Place toilet,” says Jackaman. “What we’ve done is come up with a design for a Changing Place public toilet. The important thing about ours is that it is part of the public toilet provision, and it’s in the heart of the city centre. It’s open most of the day, and there is an attendant available to help.”
The Changing Place toilet provides enough space for two carers to assist a disabled person and the equipment necessary for their specific needs. Facilities include a height-adjustable changing bench and hoist system to help people from their wheelchairs to the toilet.
“Without a hoist or changing bench, carers and parents are having to lay people on the floor,” says Jackaman. “That’s assuming they can find a disabled toilet big enough to do that.”
The hoist is particularly important for paid carers, as they are not allowed to lift people out of their wheelchairs without using this equipment.
The facility in Nottingham has been open since July 2006 and the Changing Place project team have already had positive feedback. Linda, who lives in the city, commented on how it has helped her and her disabled daughter Sara. “I’m determined Sara should have the chance to take part in our local community, and we go out somewhere every day,” she said. “Now that Nottingham city centre has a Changing Places toilet we have far more freedom and choice – it’s made such a difference to our lives.”
With an invitation to join the Changing Places Consortium, a national group of organisations that work to support the rights of disabled people, Nottingham Council is on its way to raising awareness about the challenges faced by people like Linda and Sara throughout the UK.
The Changing Place project team plans to use its £5,000 prize money for another Changing Place toilet in Nottingham. At the moment, it is undertaking a feasibility study for an installation at Nottingham Arena. If the project goes ahead, it will be the first national arena to have these facilities. The prize money is also helping to promote the programme’s agenda. “Given this sort of recognition, it’s enabling the project team to do further work and to influence other parts of the council,” says Jackaman.
Jackaman emphasises the hopeful nature of this project that started on such a small, local level. “It wasn’t rocket science, but it was something that nobody else was doing. Sometimes you just need to change one thing to open up a world of possibilities.”
● For more information contact Martin Jackaman
This article appeared in the 1 February issue of the magazine, under the headline “The facilitators”