NEW and renovated public buildings will soon include much-needed facilities for severely disabled people, subject to a government consultation.
A consultation has been launched on changing places facilities, which would be made mandatory in new or largely refurbished buildings, depending on their size, visitor numbers and capacity.
Changing places are disabled facilities large enough for an adult to be changed into a new set of clothes.
In Gosport, changing places facilities have been installed at Gosport Discovery Centre, with further facilities planned for Lee-on-the-Solent Splash Park, Alver Valley Country Park, Gosport Bus Station Redevelopment and Gosport Leisure Centre.
Portsmouth has a changing place at Southsea Library in Palmerston, and there are facilities at the Tesco in Quay Street, Fareham, and Staunton Country Park in Havant.
But campaigners say that the lack of changing places in years gone by had a major influence on the places they were able to visit.
They are hopeful that the government consultation will lead to a nationwide change.
Hana Young, 29, lives with her daughter Tilly, age six, who requires changing places facilities.
Hana said: ‘This is brilliant news – I’m really excited about it.
‘Whether there is a changing place is something we’ve always had to factor into our plans, so this should make a big difference.
‘As Tilly grows up it gets harder to pick her up or put her down, so changing places facilities become more and more important.’
Kirsty Smillie, one of the leading campaigners for changing places in Gosport, said: ‘It’s a tremendous step in the right direction.
‘It demonstrates that finally the government are focusing on how to eradicate social exclusion and isolation.
'This consultation is the result of a collective group uniting and passionately campaigning for their voices to be heard – now that we have educated the local authorities and the government on why changing places toilets are vital, hopefully the government can implement the changes.’
Currently, building regulation guidelines only go as far as recommending changing places toilets are provided.
The consultation asks people for their views on the threshold where the facilities will be made mandatory.
The town’s MP and minister of state for health and social care, Caroline Dinenage, says these facilities would have a huge impact across the country.
‘It is utterly shocking how few changing places toilets there are currently in public spaces across the UK,’ she said.
‘A quarter of a million disabled people need changing places and this consultation is a step forward to ensuring accessibility for everyone.
‘Whilst this is something most of us take for granted, access to spaces like these make a big difference to the lives of disabled people and their carers.’
The consultation will close on July 21 at 11.45pm.
To give your thoughts go to surveymonkey.com/r/ChangingPlacesToilets.