Overview | The Need for Changing Places | ‘Purple Pound’ | Case Studies
With over 6,000 tourist attractions and many more beauty spots, and smaller destinations, a large portion of the UK’s economy is founded on tourism. This is set to expand further with more people than ever planning to ‘holiday at home’ and explore what the UK has to offer.
Something less commonly spoken about is accessible tourism – and the inaccessibility of a large portion of tourist attractions to people with disabilities, particularly those with complex or profound disabilities. Poor access can be down to many factors, but one key reason is the lack of suitable toilet facilities.
For people with certain types of disabilities and their families, access to Changing Places toilets is a key requirement when it comes to planning days out. Changing Places toilets enable people to access more of the UK and enjoy the same great tourist attractions we all visit.
In this article, we’re going to look at how tourist attraction managers can enhance accessible tourism by installing Changing Places toilets, the business benefits, limitations or challenges they may face with Changing Places projects, and finally some of our success stories.
Changing Places toilets are specially designed accessible loos that provide more space and equipment than a standard accessible toilet. Featuring an adult-sized changing bench and hoist,
Changing Places are necessary for severely disabled people, including those that have paralysis or any other factors that make toileting difficult. The extra space inside a Changing Places enables the person using the room to have a couple of assistants or family members help them.
The campaign for more Changing Places toilets was launched in 2006 by The Changing Places Consortium and there are now more than 1,800 registered facilities across the UK.
The success of the campaign is a testament to hardworking campaigners, families, and forward-thinking businesses. However, the need for more toilets continues to grow and it is estimated that 250,000 people in the UK need access to a Changing Places toilet.
Many of the Changing Places built over the last ten years have enabled more disabled people to visit locations such as supermarkets or hospitals but an increased focus on accessible tourism will empower those people to participate in so much more than mundane trips.
Visiting museums, beauty spots, or theme parks enrich our lives through enjoyment or education – disabled people should have these opportunities, too.
83% of disabled people have made a conscious decision not to visit an unwelcoming or inaccessible business — particularly those with no suitable, clean toilet facilities.
The need for more Changing Places in tourist attractions has been voiced by disabled people themselves, and advocates /families, for several years.
Ahead of the government rolling out a £30 million funding scheme, they partnered with The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers and Muscular Dystrophy UK to carry out research and establish where Changing Places toilets were needed the most. A survey published in 2021 found that participants would like to see more Changing Places toilets at tourist attractions – just under 60% of survey participants chose this option, making tourist attractions the second most popular choice, just behind country parks and open spaces which took the top spot.
Accessible tourism is in high demand, as the survey also demonstrated how highly disabled people value the current Changing Places toilets some attractions have:
“Respondents valued having days out most because of a CPT; one in five (21%) said that not having a CPT available made it impossible for them to have a day out.”
The survey even breaks down the types of tourist attractions participants would like to see more provisions. In order of popularity, these were:
The need for more Changing Places at tourist attractions is both an emotional and practical one. In practice, disabled people would have clean, safe spaces to use the bathroom, and have continence wear or clothing changed. Emotionally, accessing fun or educational venues can help with wellbeing, fulfil cultural needs, and help people feel more ‘normal’.
Not being able to access tourist attractions is a huge negative for disabled people but can also affect their families too. Often entire families may be excluded from days out – if one child has a disability, a family may be restricted from visiting attractions, affecting siblings. This is a reality faced by many families whose only other option would be to leave a disabled child at home with one parent, or another family member.
This is an issue occurring all around the UK; this article from BBC Wales highlights the difficulties tourists have with accessibility, with one parent mentioning the lack of Changing Places toilets.
UK tourism is booming right now, but for it to continue to grow successfully, it needs to be inclusive and mindful of everyone’s needs. The UK has an ageing population and a high incidence of chronic illnesses, so making attractions more accessible brings the potential for more new visitors.
In the survey mentioned above, anonymous comments from disabled people or their families were also published. Many of which demonstrate the revenue tourism attractions are losing out on. How many potential customers are not visiting tourist attractions, not through choice, but because they can’t?
Download our modular Changing Places brochure
Total UK annual expenditure generated by accessible tourism is estimated to be £15.3 billion.
The Purple Pound is a term that has been commonly used to describe the spending power of disabled people and their families across retail and leisure industries. Estimated to be worth £212 billion to the UK economy, disabled people hold a lot of spending power.
Where this money is spent depends on a few factors, one almost certainly being how accessible your business is. If disabled people can’t access your business or you aren’t providing the necessary facilities, they won’t visit.
Visit Britain present a great case for making your business accessible with some powerful statistics on the spending power of disabled tourists:
1.) The total expenditure generated by those with an impairment or those travelling within a group where a member had an impairment is estimated to be £15.3 billion.
2.) Day visitor spending by this group was £11.6 billion in 2018.
In this older report from Visit England, it is noted that disabled people tend to be accompanied on trips by at least one person – a partner, children, or companion. This presents yet more opportunity for business revenue.
Aside from the financial benefits of installing a Changing Places toilet and making destinations more accessible, tourism bosses should also be aware of the legal requirements. We’ve produced a useful article on Changing Places legislation.
58% of survey participants said they avoid going to a venue if it has not shared its disabled access information because they assume it’s inaccessible.
Source: Euan’s Guide 2022 Access Survey
Hopefully, we’ve made a convincing case as to why Changing Places toilets are needed in tourist attractions, the long-term financial benefits of the Purple Pound, and the opportunity to improve people’s lives.
However, as a Changing Places provider with significant experience in the tourism sector, we understand the practical challenges some businesses can face before making a Changing Places toilet a reality. Luckily, we provide solutions for just about every issue.
One of our most popular options for tourist attractions are our modular Changing Places toilets. A modular installation minimises disruption on site as we build the facility off-site and crane it into place once groundworks are completed.
For these reasons, Woburn Safari Park opted for a modular design and we had their customised Changing Places toilet in place and ready to use within weeks.
Sometimes, modular options can be tricky at certain locations because of site access, this is because we need to get a large vehicle or crane into the site. However, we can creatively work around sites that present challenges, as we did at Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Restricted site access meant we couldn’t crane a modular facility in, so we took a more traditional approach and built the facility directly on site.
Any customer reservations about us working within large, busy attractions are always put at ease through our proven build process and commitments to health and safety. We adapted an existing space into a Changing Places toilet at Whipsnade Zoo, the UK’s largest zoo without a hitch and with little impact on customers.
We can adapt almost existing space into a Changing Places toilet, providing a full turnkey service – taking care of every aspect of the design and build. One of our more creative adaptations was at The National Space Centre, in Leicester. Their facility ended up being at the heart of the centre and is a brilliant use of space.
It’s a pleasure working with RISE. Their passion, dedication and commitment to the campaign is refreshing, and the alternative options they can offer are invaluable to ensure a Changing Places toilet can be installed virtually anywhere.
ROARR Dinosaur Adventure also presented us with a challenge… they had a space earmarked for a new facility, but the space was enormous. Once again, we came up with a great solution to create a usable facility and space.
We worked on an interesting project at Sudbury Hall, building a Changing Places toilet and sensory space, inside the hall in a way that won’t affect the fabric of the building. We managed the planning application for the trust and obtained listed building consent from the local authority. The National Trust were happy with the process and trusted RISE, and we’ve partnered with them on several other projects.
Other historic projects we have worked on include the installation of a Changing Places toilet inside the Grade II listed conservatory at Warwick Castle. We worked with site operator Merlin to obtain listed building consent, then deliver all building and installation works within three-weeks onsite.
As demonstrated by the number of Changing Places we are installing at tourist attractions, there is clearly a demand for these facilities and we’re happy to see more and more attractions joining the Changing Places movement.
Demand will continue to grow as our population ages, the population increases, and the domestic tourism market carries on its upwards trajectory. There is no better time than right now to install a Changing Places toilet.
"I have an existing room that I'd like to adapt into a Changing Places toilet."
"I don't have any space: Tell me about your modular Changing Places."
"I'd like to arrange an onsite consultation to better understand my options."
"When is your next Changing Places seminar and what's the agenda?"
“Changing Places are like keys that open the door to wonderful places like The National Space Centre. Our new facility isn’t just a toilet!”
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