Changing Places accessible toilets £30m fund offers ‘freedom’

BBC News, March 4, 2021

A mother who joined calls for more accessible public toilets for disabled people has welcomed a move to install them in existing buildings in England.

Sarah Brisdion, from Hampshire, started a campaign after she experienced difficulties using toilets when out with her son, who has cerebral palsy.

A new £30m government fund has been created to install the facilities – known as Changing Places.

Mrs Brisdion said: “It’s wonderful news – it offers freedom”.

The mother-of-twins, from Brockenhurst, started campaigning for better facilities seven years ago, when her children Erica and Hadley were three.

Mrs Brisdion said Hadley faced the indignity of having to lay on the floor when he became too heavy for baby changing facilities.

“It dominates what you can do and where you can go if you are constantly having to think about lying on a toilet floor to be changed or using the loo in the car… so you choose not to go out,” she said.

“This opens up loads more opportunities for us and thousands of people – giving them options of places they haven’t been able to go to before.”

She added they were opportunities “many take for granted”.

Hadley, who is now 10, said things were “certainly improving”.

He added: “I remember when I used to have to lie on the floor and it’s not very comfortable to say the least.

“It feels horrible, you’re uncomfortable, you’re lying down, you’re trying to get changed, what are you supposed to do? No-one should have to do that.”

Mrs Brisdion has previously posted festive selfies of herself on the lavatory to raise awareness and also dressed as a poo emoji during a loo-sit in London’s Baker Street.

A government spokesman said local authorities would be able to “opt in” to the scheme to receive a proportion of the funding, based on need, to install the facilities.

Changing Places, which are now compulsory for new buildings in England, include hoists, changing benches and space for carers.

In July, the Department for Transport and Muscular Dystrophy UK announced a £1.27m fund to install 37 more Changing Places at service stations across England.

It means 87 of England’s 118 service stations will have the facilities in the next few years.