Most supermarket chains do not provide fully accessible toilets, which are needed by a quarter of a million people in the UK. A survey of major supermarkets (including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and Asda) found that 6 in 10 do not have a fully accessible toilet with all the equipment that people need.
The research, carried out by Muscular Dystrophy UK, looked into the facilities needed by people with various disabilities including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke, along with elderly people generally, and people with severe and multiple learning disabilities.
In addition to supermarkets, the research found that 40% of the top 50 ranked shopping centres in the UK didn’t have a registered Changing Places toilet.
For example, the nearest Changing Places toilet to London’s Oxford Street (the biggest and most famous shopping street in the UK) is at Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is almost two miles away!
A scheme called Changing Places, co-chaired by the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, has produced a register of toilets that are fully accessible.
These Changing Places toilets have a toilet that sticks out like a ‘peninsular’ (at least a metre away from the walls on either side) plus a height-adjustable changing bench, an overhead track or mobile hoist, a privacy screen, plus enough space for up to two carers to help.
Muscular Dystrophy UK say that without enough of the correct facilities, disabled people may have to be changed on dirty toilet floors, or simply not go out at all.
What do the experts say?
According to Clare Lucas from Muscular Dystrophy UK: “Everyone should have the option of enjoying a bit of shopping, or popping to their local supermarket to buy essentials. But because there aren’t enough Changing Places toilets, a quarter of a million people who need these toilets won’t be able to.”
“We need retailers to commit to installing these much-needed Changing Places to help tackle the exclusion disabled people face.”
A spokesman from the British Retail Consortium said: “Retailers seek to make their shops accessible to as many people as possible. However, costs and other practical challenges mean it is not always possible to cater to all needs in every store.”
Darren Bugg, Editor of The Customer Service Blog said: “Businesses need to understand that just having a wider toilet to accommodate wheelchair access is not enough in itself. People with various disabilities and complex health needs, also require various other special facilities and equipment. Many businesses think that it’s enough to do the bare minimum of providing a wider door access and more space in their ‘disabled’ toilets. This feels like paying ‘lip service’ to people with disabilities, and is simply not enough.”
Thanks to Muscular Dystrophy UK and Retail Gazette for some of the materials used in this article.
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