Changing Places toilets enable anyone, regardless of their disability, to go to the shops, attend hospital appointments, enjoy community life, socialise, and travel.

All the things that most of us take for granted every day. 

These facilities offer people with profound and multiple learning disabilities or with physical disabilities extra equipment and space to allow them to use the toilets safely and comfortably. The Atkinson’s Changing Places facility has been available for use by visitors to Southport since 2020, but the official launch was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

On 18 July 2022, The Atkinson was joined by members of Southport Access For Everyone (SAFE) and The Atkinson Development Trust for the official launch of the vital facility and to celebrate the achievements of all involved. 

The opening ribbon was cut by Matthew Hurst, a regular visitor to The Atkinson and SAFE volunteer.

When The Atkinson re-opened in 2013, it had a sizeable accessible toilet on the first floor, with additional accessible toilets on the ground floor and second floor. 

In 2017 the need for a Changing Places facility was stressed to The Atkinson by members of SAFE, primarily Fiona Caplan and Matthew Hurst. 

Fiona Caplan, Secretary, Southport Access For Everyone (SAFE) said: 

“Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK live with a disability that severely limits their mobility. 

“They cannot use standard accessible toilets because they need access to the specialist equipment and extra room provided by a Changing Places toilet. 

“Without this facility they are unable to go out and enjoy seeing and doing things that other people take for granted.”

The Atkinson’s Emma Harrison (Principal Manager for Access, Engagement & Enterprise) met with Fiona Caplan, Matthew Hurst and his father David to discuss the need for a more accessible facility. In 2018, with an official letter of support written by Fiona on behalf of SAFE and a compelling letter of support written by Matthew and his father sharing their personal experiences, The Atkinson applied for a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to install a Changing Places facility on the first floor of The Atkinson. 

A vital Changing Places facility has officially opened at The Atkinson improving accessibility for visitors to Southport

A vital Changing Places facility has officially opened at The Atkinson improving accessibility for visitors to Southport

Matthew & David Hurst, Volunteers, Southport Access For Everyone (SAFE) said: 

“Everyone has a right to live in the community with access to its facilities but for some people like Matthew the lack of a fully accessible toilet denies them this right…. 

“On using a Changing Places toilet we found that when using the ceiling hoist compared with mobile hoist, transferring was less difficult, more efficient, easier to access and careers at a lower risk of injury. 

“Matthew was less anxious and far more positive operating the controls independently and with the adjustable wash basin he was also able to be more independent washing his hands.” 

The National Lottery Community Fund grant application was successful, and The Atkinson was awarded £10,000 towards a new facility. Further financial support was offered by The Atkinson Development Trust to prepare the existing accessible toilet for the upgrade. 

After a series of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Changing Places facility was finally installed in 2020 by Astor Bannerman who are experts in the design and manufacture of specialist bathing and care equipment. 

Emma Harrison, Principal Manager for Access, Engagement & Enterprise, The Atkinson said:

“This upgrade allowed us to go from compliant to comfortable and we are proud to have achieved it. 

“With lots of help from our partners at Southport Access For Everyone (SAFE) we were successful with an application to the National Lottery Community fund. 

“With their funding we could buy the upgraded equipment and have it installed. 

The Atkinson Development Trust funded the vital work to get the room prepared for the installation.”

This journey to expand The Atkinson’s accessibility is echoed in one of their core values in particular: ‘To listen to our audiences and visitors to help us improve the service we offer.’ 

The Atkinson’s fully equipped Changing Places facility is fully lockable, has a floor space of 12 square metres and includes a H frame ceiling track hoist, a wall mounted height adjustable adult sized changing bench, a peninsular toilet, a height adjustable wash basin, a shower, a non-slip floor, a privacy screen, a paper roll and two emergency cords. 

Residents and visitors to Southport with their own RADAR key (a skeleton key that opens locked accessible toilets in the UK) can use the facility during The Atkinson’s opening hours. The RADAR Key Scheme enables disabled toilets to be locked to prevent vandalism and misuse, while also being readily available to those who really need them. 

Visitors without a RADAR key can ask a staff member to open the facility for them. 

Meg (Visitor to The Atkinson) said: 

“Thank you SO much for having this beautiful changing facility. It’s amazing. 

“Now we can have a day out at the beach without having to go home for the toilet. 

“Things like this mean the world to us! Thank you.”

Meg (aged 8) and her mum Kathy. 

Find out more about accessibility at The Atkinson and plan your visit online: theatkinson.co.uk/visitus/plan-your-visit/accessibility

Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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