If you operate a large venue, Changing Places is a developing area of law you need to understand.
They are a type of accessible toilet and hygiene space which are costly to install, but may soon become a legal requirement. Here, our guide and infographic will help you understand more.
Is a Changing Place different from an accessible toilet?
Yes. A Changing Place is a specific class of accessible area which provides support to people with the most complex disabilities. They offer a toilet, changing areas, a hoist, a changing bench and hygiene facilities.
It is estimated over 250,000 people need access to Changing Places in the UK.
In recent years Changing Places access has become an organised campaign with its own charity. It has gained government and media attention and mandatory Changing Places provision is part of a Bill currently going through Parliament.
The Law - You must act "reasonably"
Changing Places may become mandatory, but it’s possible your responsibility under existing law “to make reasonable adjustments” means you are already required to provide one – or will be soon.
A problem is the definition of “reasonable” moves with prevailing public understanding, opinion and the growing availability of Changing Places at venues.
There are four areas of law, guidance and regulation which impact a decision to install a Changing Place:
The Equalities Act 2010
Equalities and Humans Rights Commission Guidance
British Standard 8300:2009
Approved Document M: Access to and use of buildings
Changing Places are here to stay.
A Changing Place isn’t cheap to install. Costs of £50,000 are within realistic expectations. But the price could be dwarfed by the expense and reputational damage of defending a legal challenge. Two considerations are key:
1) You are required to take positive steps to ensure disabled people can access services. Frequently this will mean you must treat disabled people more favourably than others.
2) It is an “anticipatory duty”. That means all service providers – whether you already have disabled customers or not and whether any complaints have been made or not – must make reasonable adjustments.
What If I Don't Act?
If you face legal action for failing to provide a Changing Place under the Equality Act 2010 you must deal with:
- The cost of defending the claim (likely to be significant).
- Potentially severe adverse publicity.
- If you lose a claim the court will impose sanctions and, likely, require you to pay the claimant's legal costs.
- There are already around 1,120 Changing Places toilets in the UK, with the highest concentrations in major cities.
Who has already taken action?
There is a clear direction of travel towards widespread provision. High profile organisations to have installed Changing Places include:
- Glasgow Airport
- Thorpe Park