Many disabled people and their families depend on Changing Places toilet facilities to allow them to leave the house and Muscular Dystrophy UK has today launched a survey to discover where these vital facilities are most needed in the UK.

Changing Places toilets are different from regular accessible toilets, as they have specialist equipment (including a hoist and a changing bench) and are more spacious, making it easier for people with severe disabilities to use public toilets.

The survey is the biggest consultation to date for those relying on specialist facilities and hopes to improve the lives of the 250,000 people across the UK who cannot use standard accessible toilets.

The 10-minute survey can be completed online and will remain open until 23rd April.

Why is it important more specialist toilet facilities are created?

Having these facilities more widely spread across the UK will make it far easier for disabled people to spend more time in public places. Without these facilities, disabled people and their carers face many challenges, such as:

• Limiting what they drink to avoid needing the toilet when they are out – risking dehydration and urinary tract infections
• Sitting in soiled clothing or dirty nappies until a suitable toilet is found or they return home
• Having to change a loved one on a dirty toilet floor
• Manually lifting someone out of their wheelchair – risking safety
• Reducing their time out of the house – restricting their social lives

Where will the funding come from?

MDUK co-chairs the Changing Places Consortium and has announced they will support the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in delivering a £30m fund. This was announced in last year’s budget and will be used to install more Changing Places facilities in existing buildings across England.

There are currently only around 1,500 Changing Places toilets in the UK. Councils will soon be invited to “opt in” to bid for a proportion of the £30m funding so they can install facilities in their communities. This will boost the number of Changing Place toilets in existing buildings, for example in leisure and sports centres, cinemas, and arts and tourism venues.

This will ensure more disabled people can take part in everyday activities that have the greatest impact on their quality of life as well as improving the geographical spread across England of Changing Places toilets.

Karen Hoe, MDUK Changing Places Manager, said: “Muscular Dystrophy UK is encouraging all Changing Places users to complete our short survey to help inform where, and in which kinds of buildings, these vital facilities are needed.

“With Changing Places toilets available in the right places, thousands of disabled people will have the confidence to work, travel, explore and have fun – things that so many of us take for granted. It’s crucial that the network of Changing Places toilets is developed, and we can only do that with the experience and insight of the people who depend on them.”

Luke Hall MP, Regional Growth Minister, said: “For too long, the lack of suitable toilet facilities has meant disabled people have faced major difficulties when they shop, go out, or travel and this should not be the case. The significant investment of £30m from government, and our charity partnership with Muscular Dystrophy UK, will help bring major, life enhancing freedoms to those people who have specific needs.

“I encourage Changing Places toilet users, their carers and families to complete the survey from Muscular Dystrophy UK to ensure we can identify how to make best use of the funding available to benefit those who need it most.”