Samantha Bowen and her daughter were impressed with the Changing Places toilet at Eureka!

The difference an accessible toilet makes

Samantha Bowen , 15.11.2019
Samantha Bowen on making use of a Changing Place toilet at Eureka!
The comedian Michael Mcintyre has a sketch about his top three wishes when using public toilets: a working door lock, a loo seat and loo roll.

I’d add a fourth wish – a hook on the back of the door. Who wants to put their bags and coat on a dirty toilet floor?

But if you think that’s a horrible idea, just imagine having to lay your child on a dirty floor too? That’s the reality for one in 260 people in this county who have disabilities or additional needs that require them to be changed lying down. Any child over the age of about two or weighing more than 15kgs will be too big for a “baby change” unit.

Imagine knowing that your child, friend, partner or parent needs to be changed but there is simply no other option but to lay a coat or mat down on the floor of a cramped smelly loo and get on with it, dreading the risk that the germs all around you pose.

It is also a manual handling risk and each year people hurt themselves in this very situation. Then there is the lack of dignity, the emotional hurt felt by not being catered for, not wanted, not even recognised.

Changing Place toilets change all of that. They are spacious, have a hoist and adult size height-adjustable change bed, as well as a loo and sink and dryer. These are becoming more common but museums are slow on the uptake to install them.

I was delighted to then find one when I took my disabled daughter on a recent to visit Eureka! in Halifax. We made use of it on arrival and a friendly member of staff stopped what she was doing immediately to enter the access code for me.

The room was light, airy and well equipped. We have used lots of Changing Places toilets, but I have never seen one so well signed, with written and photograph instructions laminated onto each piece of equipment. Being next to the general loos also made it feel inclusive.

So well done to Eureka! for truly being inclusive and accessible to all those visitors who can’t sit on a loo but don’t want to lie on a floor. Guess what? More museums would see a rise in visitor numbers if they installed one too.

Samantha Bowen is the museum development officer for Medway and Kent
 

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