A Changing Place is a toilet designed for children and adults with additional toileting needs like those who wear and use nappies or pads as well as having physical difficulties. These toilets often include a bed and a hoist so individuals can have their nappies changed comfortably as well as the opportunity to use the toilet.
Let me make it very clear I support the rise of Changing Places toilets in public places like airports, railway stations, shopping centres, exhibition centres and so on. Places that have a large number of people using them each day.
These are natural places where people like to or need to refresh themselves with food and drink, and using the toilet. It is correct that as there are more people with complex needs being included in society, that their toileting needs are met by more Changing Places.
My concern is when individual shops and restaurants with relevantly low traffic and small toileting facilities, who are also being catered for by larger toileting facilities within the shopping mall or railway station etc, are being bullied with political correctness by parents of children with additional toileting needs to install a changing place, when it is hardly ever going to be used.
The placement of quality changing places, like toilets in general, have to make economic sense. The number of people requiring changing places currently is small anyway. They certainly need to exist but they can become an unnecessary economic burden on businesses that drive up prices in the name of political correctness. It would make no sense to force every wheelchair accessible toilet to become a changing place as there is not the demand.
And here we need to look at the way some parents are campaigning for Change Places, as this is a parent-led movement, and how the demand for Changing Places could be being used as a denial of their child’s toileting method.
Having a child who is ‘toilet trained’ is regarded as an important milestone in their development for many parents. Coming to terms with the fact your child may need to use nappies for various reasons for the rest of their lives can be hard to swallow for many parents.
Toileting can also be a complex issue where nappies are a solution to be used some of the time. I use nappies when I go out as a precaution. There is an individual balance to be made between sitting someone on the toilet and using a nappy. Some people are incorrectly left in nappies and denied toileting opportunities for the benefits of care staff, while other people can be incorrectly placed on the toilet too many times each day to ‘try and go’ when a nappy would be more liberating.
From personal experience, a wet nappy, sometimes with plastic pants for extra protection, is nothing to write home about. A wet nappy that has not overflowed can be comfortably worn going out for a few hours and changed at the next ‘port of call’ as discussed above. If changing places are not used for these natural nappy changes but instead used to try to toilet train children who can not be toilet trained, the campaign for Changing Places could be seen as abusive.
As a child grows and becomes more independent, they may travel aboard and to places where Changing Places are unheard off. If they have not been supported to use nappies as an independent living device because of the fear of parents, their inclusion in society and real lived experiences outside their comfort zone will be restricted. Society should regard wearing a nappy as liberating rather than something embarrassing.
I should say a messy nappy is a difficult affair and one that should be avoided if that is possible. This is about having a positive toileting routine and planning your toileting opportunities when you go out, which is where Changing Places can really help.
For some children and adults toileting can be a complex issue. Parents can be positive enablers in helping children develop a toileting system that works for them, or they can add unnecessary pressure and stress to a child to conform to a method of toileting that does not work for them. We need to support parents to be the former.
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