Ensuring accessible toilet provision

More than 250,000 severely disabled people in the UK do not have access to public toilet facilities that meet their needs – but action now being taken could rectify this


  • Jenny Miller
  • Fiona Souter

19 November 2020

An example of a Changing Places toilet equipment and layout © Changing Places Consortium

In 2006, the Changing Places Consortium launched a campaign on behalf of the many thousands who cannot use standard accessible toilets. This includes people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, as well as older people.

A Changing Places toilet (CPT) enables full community involvement in activities and events that many of us take for granted, providing the right equipment and sufficient space in a clean and safe environment.

There are distinct differences between a CPT and an accessible toilet. Accessible toilets are designed for a range of disabled people and independent wheelchair users, whereas a CPT is larger, providing suitable equipment for people with complex care needs and their carers, or those who cannot use accessible toilets.

Provision of a CPT should be made in addition to accessible sanitary facilities because of these different needs. There are currently more than 1,400 CPTs in the UK – up from just 140 in 2007 – but further facilities are required to support more than 250,000 people who need them.

Action in Scotland

In 2019, the Scottish government’s Building Standards Division launched a public consultation on CPT provision that received an overwhelming 1,112 responses, the largest number it has received for such a consultation. This resulted in the amendment of the Building standards technical handbook 2019: non-domestic with the addition of a new clause, 3.12.13, covering CPTs, which came into force in October 2019.

This clause requires that a CPT should be provided on construction of a retail, assembly or entertainment building, or a building combining any of these uses, which has floorspace of more than 5,000m2, capacity of more than 1,000 persons, or which contains a swimming pool. This includes hospitals and secondary schools providing community facilities.

Furthermore, where a CPT is not already present, it should be provided where a building in any of the above categories is created by conversion or is extended so its gross floor area increases by 25% or more.

The layout and facilities of a CPT should provide adequate space for a user to be assisted by carers; that is, a minimum of 3m wide by 4m long, with a minimum ceiling height of 2.4m and a door with a clear opening width of at least 1m. Floor surfaces should have a non-slip finish.

The essential sanitary facilities and fixtures required in a Changing Places toilet

Strong cross-party support led to an amendment of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, to introduce changing places toilet requirements in the Town and Country Planning (Changing Places Toilet Facilities) (Scotland) Regulations.

Since 18 May 2020, a CPT must be included in the planning application for any of these developments:
  • a school, college or university
  • a community centre, sports and leisure centre, or similar public building
  • a hospital or other facility for the provision of health services
  • a retail outlet
  • a cultural centre, such as a museum, concert hall or art gallery
  • a stadium or large auditorium
  • a major transport terminus or interchange
  • a motorway service facility
  • a conference or exhibition centre
  • a restaurant or café
  • a public house or nightclub.

Future provision in the UK

Other UK nations are well on their way to similar changes, with England aiming to amend Building Regulations by the end of the year to make CPTs a legal requirement in new public buildings.

The UK government has also announced a £30m fund to support these changes and increase provision across England including existing buildings. In addition, there is a £2m Department of Health and Social Care fund to increase provision in NHS hospitals.

The average cost of installing a CPT is £13,000. For building professionals, it makes sense to get ahead of the regulatory changes and start including CPTs in plans for public buildings. It is clear that the public expects venues to be fully accessible and inclusive, and investing in a CPT brings financial benefits, with the spending power of the disabled community – the so-called purple pound – estimated to be worth £249bn.

Having access to a CPT can be life-changing, and the UK is leading the way with legislative changes that will ensure communities are accessible to all.



Related competencies include: Inclusive environments, Legal/regulatory compliance

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