DISCLAIMER: This post is in no way affiliated/sponsored by companies mentioned, nor is it intended to encourage individuals who DO NOT need these specialist facilities to use them inappropriately, out of convenience. It is purely an awareness post, derived from my own personal experience of what I’ve found to make life easier as a disabled Mum and Changing Places user.
I’ve done many a blog post on the importance of Changing Places, not only for my needs with my own condition but those of the 250,000 disabled children and adults who depend on them every single day or risk isolation. However, what I haven’t touched on so far is how these life-enhancing facilities help parents with severe disabilities like me.
What are Changing Places toilets?
Changing Places are specialist toilet facilities that have TWO bits of essential kit – a ceiling track hoist and an adult-sized changing bench, which meet the needs of profoundly disabled individuals across the UK.
In the UK we are lucky to have all sorts of toilets to meet the masses. These include your standard ladies and gents, baby changing facilities, accessible toilets, accessible toilets WITH baby changing facilities, unisex toilets and on the quite rare occasion you may come across a family toilet. Splitting your needs from your baby/children is not an option for many disabled parents, so they’re left to manage the best they can in the facility they feel caters for them the most, that being said, it’s not without its difficulty.
Accessible Toilets WITH Baby Changers
The silver lining on accessible toilets combined baby changing facilities, much to the annoyance of childless people with disabilities, is how helpful it is to be able to go into the accessible toilet as a disabled person, go to the loo yourself and deal with your baby’s nappy right there and then. Much like how the average Mum would take the baby into the ladies and often find a changer there. Being able to kill two birds with one stone in this sense takes the stress off disabled parents to a degree. It all depends on how your disability affects you. Somebody with a Chronic illness/invisible disability who has a baby/child may find accessible toilets with baby changers the ideal setup. The baby changers are at standing height, keeping in mind they were not designed for the use of a disabled parent, they are still helpful to some. However a parent who’s a wheelchair user may struggle with the standing height baby changer and if it’s a particularly small accessible toilet as is (we all know they can be TINY), aligning your wheelchair under the drop down changer may not even be realistic without the ample turning space. Making it all very much a case of self-evaluating each venues accessible toilet facilities, knowing your own limitations and requirements, then deciding if it’s workable from there based on your circumstances.
How do Changing Places benefit parents with disabilities?
There are several ways Changing Places trumps ALL when it comes to parenting with a disability. Speaking from experience and getting feedback from other disabled parents with various kinds of disabilities, I’ve compiled a list of the biggest game changers Changing Places facilities make to us in our parenting role.
1. The reassurance that everybody can ‘go’ within the same toilet! –
This is by far the biggest advantage. Instead of having to go to the loo yourself in the standard accessible toilet, then needing to change baby in the unaccessible ladies for example, in a Changing Places toilet, the whole family can take it in turns to use the loo. You can bring young children in with you, knowing there’s ample room for you to navigate in your wheelchair and the children could sit on the bench while they wait for you, rather than sardined on a dirty toilet floor!
2. Utilising the height adjustable adult-sized changing bench –
You are able to meet your own care needs using this bench as well as utilising it to change your child. For parents who are wheelchair users, the changing bench (as many are wall mounted) has clearance beneath to fit your legs so you can set it at the correct height for your wheelchair to safely and comfortably change your infant/child. For those with reduced mobility, using the height adjustability feature compensates for painful bending during nappy changes.
3. Aids venturing out while potty training –
Potty training is one of the most stressful developmental milestones faced by any parent, but like I touched on in my ‘Potty Training with a Disability’ blog post, there are certain elements of it that disabled parents tend to find more of a challenge. One of those challenges is finding somewhere to change your child if they’ve had an accident out and about, this is where Changing Places becomes invaluable! Using the same principle of utilising the changing bench to bring your child to the right height for you to change them out of wet/dirty clothes and the fact you can even give them a wash down (if it’s particularly bad) as many CP toilets have handheld showers, which is AMAZING!
4. Damage control after a ‘Poonami’ –
Again, using the height adjustable bench and shower to more easily clean up your infant after a dreaded ‘poonami’ out in public (every parent’s worst nightmare!) Without this, many disabled parents have no other option but to turn around and go home, with baby screaming all the way to be changed or to simply not venture out without assistance.
5. Keeping hygiene at the forefront –
Depending on your disability, lifting a toddler/child to reach the sink and taps to wash their hands after going to the loo isn’t always possible. I used to resort to hand sanitiser for my littles before it dawned on me I could use the height adjustable sink in the Changing Places for their benefit too! Being able to lower the sink means no back-breaking lifting and as you can reach it too from a wheelchair, as a parent you can more easily monitor them not using the whole quantity of the soap dispenser or putting the taps on full blast (as my 3-year-old loves to do!).
6. Keeping them safe –
If you’re a disabled parent with young children, in particular, going out with the ever-present possibility of needing the loo can be a nightmare on a safety level too. Many accessible toilets are too small to allow enough safe transfer space for a wheelchair user, so having young children in the room too can be a highly stressful situation. Leaving them outside the door is a risk nobody wants to take, but you don’t have to even contemplate this scenario or rush home if there’s a Changing Places nearby. They have to be a large sq ft by requirement, so you’re guaranteed every time you come across a CPT, that you can keep your children safe with you and be able to “go.”