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12 December 2017

10 years of Changing Places- Leroy looks back 

                                                

Hi, my name is Leroy Binns and I work in Mencap’s Campaigns and Activism team on the Changing Places campaign.

 

This year is a very special year for the Changing Places toilet campaign because, on July the 19th, it is going to be our 10th Anniversary!

 

What is the Changing Places campaign?

 

Changing Places toilets are not like standard disabled toilets – they are much more than that. They have a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench, a hoist and space either side for two carers.

 

Changing Places was started by a group of campaigners in July 2006. One of the campaigners who set up the Consortium was the late Loretto Lambe, as part of her work with Pamis in Scotland. We have come a long way in the last 10 years, with over 850 Changing Places now open in the UK – but there is still room for a lot more.

 

Why I am campaigning for Changing Places.

 

I am passionate about the Changing Places campaign because Changing Places toilets help over ¼ million people, including people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), to be part of their community just like any other person. Without Changing Places toilets in their local area, they can only go out for a short while, stay at home or they are forced to be changed on a dirty floor. This is not fair.

 

Over the years I have been a Peer Advocate for three people with PMLD, and I also know five people who live on my road who are in wheelchairs. These people would all really benefit from having Changing Places toilets in their local area.

 

There are two Changing Places toilets in the wider area near me, but this is still not enough because they are not open all the time. We need more Changing Places open to the public every day, not just in the week. Without Changing Places toilets, people who live in my road will have to stay at home, which is not right.

 

One thing that shocks me is that we do not have any Changing Places toilets in the Finsbury Park area. These are very much needed because there are a lot of events happening in Finsbury Park, like concerts, funfairs and the circus. With Changing Places toilets, more people will be able to go and enjoy these events.

 

This is why I campaign for Changing Places and why, over the next few years, I want to campaign for Changing Places in my local area. One of my advocacy partners went to the London Olympic Games in 2012, which was an opportunity of a lifetime for him. Without Changing Places toilets, he would not have been able to do this and would have missed out on a historical event happening in his own city!

 

 

How I started campaigning for Changing Places

 

I have been working on the Changing Places campaign since it started. As I am a big football fan, I was asked to work on the football side of the campaign. As part of this, I campaigned to get sporting venues to commit to installing a Changing Places toilet. This means that wheelchair users and people less able to walk can go and support their team without having to go home before the end the game.

 

Back in 2008, we got our very first football stadium Changing Places at Preston North End Stadium. Now we have got Changing Places toilets in 9 football clubs and international stadiums in the UK.

 

My biggest achievement so far has been getting a Changing Places toilet in Arsenal stadium – especially because I’m a really big Arsenal fan! After several years of campaigning, Arsenal stadium became the 600th venue and the first Premiership Club to install a Changing Places toilet in April 2014…and I was there with Alex Brooker, from the Last Leg, and Alun Francis, the Stadium’s Disability Officer, to open it.

 

Before the game that day, some people from Arsenal talked to me about accessibility and why Changing Places are important. After, that I was able to see Arsenal beat West Ham by 3-1! It was an amazing day and I’ll never forget it.

 

The next 10 years

 

I will not stop campaigning for Changing Places until all football grounds, stadiums and other sporting venues have got Changing Places toilets. My next stadium to target will be Tottenham and West Ham (West Ham already have Changing Places installed, but they still need to register them on the Changing Places map).

 

In the next 10 years, I would like to see all big shops and shopping centres across the UK having a Changing Places toilet (or at least think about having one) installed in their venue.

 

I would also like to see all councils installing Changing Places toilets in council-run places like community centres, libraries, health centres and doctor’s surgeries.

 

Also, I would like to see more campaigners and better awareness about Changing Places in other countries so we can take the campaign worldwide.

 

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