On 27 June, Paula Sherriff MP presented a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons. The Bill would require certain buildings to provide Changing Places toilets. We strongly welcome the Bill and hope that this will help bring about the changes needed to secure wider provision of Changing Places toilets.
What was said?
Opening her speech, Paula said:
I realise that access to toilets might sound far from a glamorous political campaign. As a somewhat taboo subject—I am an MP who has often not been afraid to raise taboo subjects in the House—it is rarely mentioned in the media or, indeed, in political debate. Most of us take it for granted, and we rarely hear about it when basic human rights for our citizens are listed, so much is taken as a given. When the subject is raised, it is usually with reference to the developing world where, quite rightly, campaigners seek to raise the importance of people’s access to basic sanitation and hygiene, yet too many people are denied that here in modern Britain as well.”
She went on to outline the difference between Changing Places toilets and standard accessible toilets and how the availability of Changing Places toilets, which provide a bench, hoist and more space, is vitally important for over ¼ million people across the UK, including many people with muscle-wasting conditions.
Paula explained that her Bill is intended to strengthen existing regulations to make the provision of Changing Places toilets mandatory in large new builds, complexes with public access, or sites where visitors can reasonably be expected to spend long periods of time. Such a change would help dramatically increase the provision of Changing Places toilets and allow more disabled people to access their community with their friends and family, safe in the knowledge that there will be toilets that meet their needs, something so many people can take for granted.
During her speech, Paula spoke about the experiences of a number of people for whom Changing Places toilets are vital. This included Kerry, who has a form of muscular dystrophy. Speaking about why Changing Places toilets matter to her, Kerry said:
Taking a simple trip out these days can be a military operation. We have a checklist of things to take, especially if it’s more than a few hours out. The biggest problem I face when going anywhere is when it comes to using a disabled toilet. Some are simply too small to fit me, wheelchair plus hubby—it can sometimes feel very claustrophobic. I find myself limiting my time out because you just can’t risk the embarrassment of having an accident.”
We would like to thank Kerry and all the Changing Places campaigners who took the time to share their personal stories with Paula ahead of the debate. Their stories demonstrated exactly why change is needed to ensure that more Changing Places toilets are provided. You can read Paula’s full speech here.
What happens next?
All MP’s present in the chamber supported the Bill and it was agreed that there would be a second reading of the Bill on Friday 23 November. We will continue to work with Paula over the coming months to provide any necessary support to help shape the Bill.
Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information and Muscular Dystrophy UK, which co-chairs the Changing Places Consortium, said:
“Muscular Dystrophy UK and the Changing Places Consortium would like to thank Paula for bringing this important campaign to the attention of Parliament. Without access to Changing Places toilets, over a quarter of a million people who have severe disabilities are faced with a choice of not going out or being changed on a toilet floor. By building more Changing Places toilets, we can tackle the exclusion many disabled people face.
“We will not rest until Changing Places toilets become commonplace across the UK, and we will continue to work with Paula and all our campaigners to push for changes to legislation to ensure this becomes reality.”
We would like to thank Paula Sherriff for putting forward this Bill and passionately championing the needs of the ¼ million people who need Changing Places toilets during her speech. We would also like to thank the other MP’s who supported Paula’s Bill and share her commitment to improving access to Changing Places toilets.
What can you do?
Please tweet your MP and ask them to put the 23 November in their diary to support the Bill and help bring about the proposed changes to building standards and regulations.