Victory for Zack as more funding announced to provide Changing Places toilets across the North West
After five long years of campaigning, a young man from Accrington is celebrating after the government announced millions of pounds of funding to install life-enhancing Changing Places toilets in public places.
Zack Kerr has cerebral palsy and began his campaign for better facilities for disabled people after struggling to find anywhere which offered privacy and dignity.
Now the government has pledged more than £23.5 million to 191 councils across England to install over 500 of these special state-of-the-art facilities for severely disabled people at tourist attractions and public places, dramatically increasing accessibility in areas where users want them most.
26-year-old Zack said: "I have been a changing places campaigner for over 5 years now and so today’s news is amazing! It’s a day we’ve been campaigning and waiting for, for so long!"
"Changing places toilets are quite simply life-changing for me, and for so many people with disabilities or additional needs.
"Life can be difficult enough in many ways, but when there are no accessible toilet facilities where I can be hoisted safely from my wheelchair and changed in privacy and with dignity, I face the choice between staying at home or restricting my social life because of my needs.
"That’s just not fair. No one should have to face these decisions because of the lack of basic toilet facilities, but whenever we want to leave our homes for a trip to the cinema, to a concert, for a day trip, to travel to see friends and family, or just to go shopping, we are faced with these difficult choices.
"I am so pleased that the government have made this funding available to local authorities all over England to increase the number of changing places available in our towns and citiesand especially in places that we can visit with our friends and family for days out.
"It’s going to make such a difference to my life and it makes all our campaigning work so worthwhile. It’s such exciting news!”
The announcement means thousands of severely disabled people, who need specialised facilities when they are out and about, will benefit from 76 new Changing Places toilets across the North West.
There are currently just over 1,300 registered Changing Places toilets in England – these are larger accessible toilets for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets, with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches, and space for carers.
This latest investment will bring the total number of Changing Places toilets to 1,813.
An additional £6.5 million will be allocated in a further round later in 2022 and will focus on areas where there is little or no access to Changing Places toilets.
Ceri Davies, Zack's stepdad and Changing Places campaigner and Changing Places Support Officer at MDUK has welcomed the news, saying "I first became aware of Changing Places Toilets in 2017 when I was visiting Chester Zoo with members of my family.
"My adult step-son, Zack, is a wheelchair user and requires the essential equipment provided in a Changing places toilet, along with the support of his parents or carers in order to be changed hygienically, safely and with dignity.
"Our lives as a family are literally controlled by the locations of these vital facilities. They dictate where we can and can’t go and often the routes we take when we travel together.
"Family life can be enough of a challenge when there are additional needs like travel and access to consider, but when there is such a lack of fully accessible toilet facilities all around the country, it makes even the simplest shopping trip or theatre visit impossible.
"Changing Places toilets are quite simply a game-changer for families like ours, because when one member of the family is excluded, we are all excluded. When Changing Places Toilets are provided, they give us the security and peace of mind that all of us need – simply, that we will never be far from a toilet facility which we can all access, regardless of our abilities or additional needs.
"There are currently over 1700 Changing Places Toilets in the UK, but as a campaigner I am delighted that this government funding will be used to significantly increase the number of Changing Places Toilet facilities all over the country, particularly in towns, cities and areas where there are few or no facilities at present and hopefully in locations where Changing Places users and their families and carers need and want to visit!”
Many disabled toilets just aren't suitable for some people. Many require an adult-size changing bench and a hoist.
In a study by the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers in 2021 families and carers said the top locations where these facilities should be made available were country parks, open spaces, tourist attractions and transport networks, as the journey to the destination is a key factor in planning a day out. The top venues were beaches and the seaside, motorway services and parks or gardens.
New facilities will now be built in the following venues:
Public parks and open spaces
Tourist attractions including historic properties, seaside resorts and zoosCathedrals
Museums, theatres and galleries
Libraries and public buildings
Ministerial Disability Champion Eddie Hughes MP said, “It goes without saying that people with severe disabilities, their families and carers should be able to go shopping, plan a day out or travel without needing to worry about whether they will have access to suitable toilet facilities.
“I am delighted that our funding today will help provide over 500 new Changing Places Toilets in England, enabling people to enjoy everything their local area has to offer with dignity and freedom.”
Robert Burley, Director of Care, Communications and Support at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Today’s announcement is life-changing news for the thousands of people and families who rely on Changing Places toilets when they are in public, because being able to use a toilet that is suitable for your needs is a basic human right.
"We’ve provided specialist support to the Levelling Up department throughout this process, and we’re really pleased that local authorities will soon be told the outcome of their application.
"We look forward to supporting councils that have been awarded the funding with their Changing Places toilet installations, because they really do make a world of difference to those who depend on them."
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