Around 7,000 people in Northern Ireland to benefit from Changing Places toilet facilities
Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland Conor Murphy has announced changes to building regulations, which will make provisions requiring Changing Places toilets in certain buildings commonly used by the public.
Changing Places toilet facilities meet the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well as people with other physical disabilities, such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. They are larger toilets to accommodate wheelchair users and often include disability equipment like hoists and changing benches to meet the needs of disabled people, along with their carers.
This new requirement for Changing Places toilets will be in addition to the current requirements for standard accessible toilets and will benefit around 7,000 people in Northern Ireland.
The new statutory guidance, published March 2022, is in Technical Booklet R, Access to and use of buildings, of the Building Regulations and comes into effect in Northern Ireland on 30 June 2022.
March 2021 saw the UK Government announce a new £30 million fund to increase the number of Changing Places facilities across England.
Conor said: “This is a very important step for inclusion and equality. Increasing the number of Changing Places toilets will help make our public places more accessible and will make a huge difference to the lives of disabled people, their carers and their families.
“By enhancing this provision, it will bring us closer to having the right facilities available in buildings where people who need to can access them.
“It will make it easier for disabled people and their families to enjoy activities that many take for granted, whether going shopping or attending a concert.
“There was overwhelming support to the recent consultation with the majority of organisations and individuals agreeing with the Department’s proposals.”
The new statutory guidance was developed in conjunction with the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (NIBRAC) and its Technical Sub-Committee, chaired by a NIBRAC member and with members co-opted externally on the basis of their expertise.
It will apply in certain types of new buildings or in existing buildings where there is a material change of use.
The department plans to carry out research in the next mandate on further extending the provision of Changing Places toilets.
This would include requiring Changing Places toilets in specified buildings where building work is to be carried out to extend or alter an existing building.
Michaela Hollywood, a Changing Places user and campaigner, commented: “This is a landmark day for inclusion.
“The reality of this guidance means that thousands of people will be able to go to the cinema without the worry of how they are going to go to the toilet.
“Having Changing Places toilets in more buildings will reduce isolation, improve mental health and esteem in disabled people who need these facilities. Disabled people will no longer need to choose between fun and going to the toilet – one of our most basic needs as a society.
“It will also mean for many disabled people that they will no longer be forced into surgical options to resolve their toileting needs.
“The impact of the new guidance will have far-reaching positive impacts on our economy and I’m delighted it’s coming into effect.”
Changing Places toilets should be provided in the following types of building, over a certain size or capacity: Assembly with a capacity of 350 people or more; or a collection of smaller buildings associated with a site used for assembly, entertainment and recreation, with a capacity of 2,000 people or more, entertainment and recreation buildings, shopping centres or retail parks with a gross floor area of 30,000 m² or more, retail premises with a gross floor area of 2,500 m² or more, leisure and sports buildings with a gross floor area of 5,000 m² or more, hospitals and primary care centres and cemetery and crematorium buildings.
Equality Campaigner Christine McClements welcomed the new regulations and reflected: “After years of campaigning I am absolutely thrilled with today’s announcement for mandatory provision of changing places toilets.
“This change to our Building Regulations will not only bring increased safe, dignified and convenient toileting opportunities for disabled people and many older people too, but it will also bring new opportunities for inclusion and participation right across society.
“My disabled daughter Lilia spent many years having to be changed on an unhygienic public toilet floor. I hope that a new generation of disabled children will now never have to face that indignity.
“Today is a very good and significant day for the advancement of the equality and rights of disabled people here.”