News — Changing Places Toilet Installed at Fremlin Walk
We are proud to announce the opening of a much-needed Changing Places toilet at Fremlin Walk. The brand new facility was opened on Monday 18th September with the help of Deputy Mayor Councillor Martin Cox, local campaigner and creator of the Accessible Toilet Project Louise Watch, and Katrina from community group Need2Change.
Changing Places toilets are specially designed to cater to individuals with complex disabilities who require additional space and equipment to use the restroom safely and independently. The newly installed toilet will offer accessibility features, including ample space for wheelchair users to manoeuvre comfortably, a height-adjustable changing bench and a hoist.
Louise Watch has been advocating for improved accessibility in public spaces. Speaking about the significance of Changing Places toilets, Louise shared her personal experiences: “My entire life has revolved around accessible toilets. Their availability has determined where I could study, volunteer, and work. With the majority of unisex wheelchair accessible toilets not meeting access standards, I faced significant challenges. Now, with my need for a hoist and larger space, I can only use Changing Places toilets. When I see one, it brings immense relief, as it signifies that ‘We welcome and value everyone.’ Having access to Changing Places means I can relax and enjoy going out without the constant worry of finding suitable facilities.”
The absence of accessible toilets often forces people to choose between staying home or compromising their health by limiting their food and water intake or holding themselves, leading to severe discomfort and health issues. Louise’s ‘Accessible Toilets Information Project’ has shed light on the importance of providing equal, dignified, hygienic, safe, and comfortable access to restrooms for all individuals.
Changing Places toilets are vital not only for individuals with visible disabilities but also for those with hidden impairments such as bladder and bowel conditions. These facilities offer essential amenities, making it easier for people to freshen up, change clothes, and manage medical needs, such as catheters.
Moreover, Changing Places toilets are highly appreciated by carers and personal assistants who require restroom facilities while assisting individuals with complex needs, such as dementia, autism, or other health conditions. The availability of these inclusive restrooms ensures that individuals with disabilities can access public spaces and facilities with dignity and ease.
Local community group Need2Change is a group made up of Mums who have first-hand experience of children and young adults with complex disabilities, sensory processing difficulties and autism. The group is keen to see more facilities and better practice in the community so that everyone can spend quality time out and about and do things that others take for granted. In 2022, Need2Change conducted a survey of local changing places users to find out where they would most like to see a new Changing Places in Maidstone. A new facility in the town centre was the most popular response.
The funding for the installation of the Changing Places toilet has been made possible through a collaboration between M&G Real Estate and Maidstone Borough Council, as part of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Programme.