A mum with an autistic son has taken matters into her own hands, and delivered a new facility that enables thousands to be a normal family….

Maria Cook has found a venue, raised the funding, sourced and organised the equipment for Crawley town centre’s first Changing Places toilet.

As a result, anyone who needs more space, lifting or changing as part of their toileting needs, can now enjoy the town centre, knowing there are suitable facilities.

“It’s a life-changer. It means Ryan and I, and all the families like us, who need the extra benefits of a Changing Places, can do ‘normal’ things- go shopping, meet friends for lunch, and relax,” explains Maria. “We couldn’t do this before: we’d have to go home early in case Ryan needed a nappy change. He’s too big now for me to lift without risk of injury.

“It isn’t just me, it’s a national issue: there are potentially millions of people who need the space, lifting, changing(*), and it impacts not just on them, but their families. There are tens of thousands of other people with impairments- visible and invisible- that mean they need the extra features of a Changing Places toilet too.”

The Changing Places is the culminations of months of effort by Maria, pulling together a team to help her achieve her aim. The Changing Places is on an old, disused public convenience building adjacent to the County Mall.

Maria, with the support of her local Councillor Chris Oxlade and County Mall manager Mark Haynes, agreed the space could be used for the Changing Places facility; County Mall covered the cost of the labour for the fit out- removing the old toilets, ceilings, floors, electrics, and installing the new ceiling track hoist, height-adjustable adult-sized changing bench, washbasin, and Clos-o-Mat Palma Vita bidet toilet. West Sussex Big Society Fund donated the money for the equipment and installation.

“To achieve a basic Changing Places, a conventional WC would have sufficed, but I really wanted the Clos-o-Mat wash/dry toilet, having listened to feedback from upcoming users,” added Maria. “It’s a toilet to end all toilets! It’s much more hygienic for whoever’s using the loo: it has build-in washing and drying, so there’s no need for wiping with loo paper. If you care for someone like Ryan, that’s your reality: you have to wipe their bottom because they can’t.”

Under latest Building Regulations and good practice guidelines, a Changing Places toilet is ‘desirable’ in buildings to which numbers of the public have access; the latest Women & Equality Parliamentary Select Committee report has recommended that Changing Places become a required element of any new large building.

Since the concept of Changing Places was launched a decade ago, almost 1000 have been opened across the UK. Under British Standards, a Changing Places is in addition to conventional (Building Regulations Document M) wheelchair accessible toilets, and provides 12m2, with additional equipment including an adult-sized height adjustable changing bench and ceiling track hoist.

Clos-o-Mat is Britain’s leading provider of helpful toileting solutions, at home and away, including Changing Places and their similar Space to Change facilities. Uniquely, the company can provide an in-house, ‘one- stop-shop’ complete package for ‘away from home’ assisted accessible toilet facilities, from design and commissioning, through to project management, supply and installation, and can also provide subsequent maintenance and repair.

Find out more about Clos O Mat by viewing their company profile, here.

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