Over the past few days I’ve been hinting at a big announcement which will change hundreds of thousands of people who use changing places toilets and today is the day I’m allowed to spill the beans!
Inclusive Transport Strategy
Today the Department for Transport is announcing its Inclusive Transport Strategy, which will improve accessibility across all types of travel for people with both visible and less visible disabilities.
The new measures to help to make transport fully accessible for ALL passengers by 2030, is backed by hundreds of million pounds and will help ensure all disabled people can travel confidently and easily. The Government will be putting up to £300 million of funding into extending the Access for All programme, making railway stations more accessible, including through step-free access.
This is of course amazing news but it’s not the news I am excited to share! The big announcement that I am celebrating, and have been dying to tell you all is that there will be a fund of £2 million to install Changing Places toilets at motorway service stations across England!
How many changing places toilets can you buy for £2 million?
When I was told about this £2 million fund I started trying to work out exactly how many loos that could equate to. But it’s really difficult to put a number on it as there are so many variables. It all depends on whether the service station already has a space it could add the equipment to, or whether they need to build a new space. Which supplier they use, which model of equipment they choose even the time of year they order it could make a difference depending on VAT rates or price increases.
If you were just buying the equipment (bench and hoist) and adding it to an existing space you could potentially fund 200 changing places toilets! But the reality means that many places will need a lot more work than that to provide a new space for the facility, so its likely to be more like 50.
This investment will mean that disabled people who need changing places toilets will be able to travel our road networks without the worry of there being no usable toilet for hundreds of miles.
A quick google showed that there are around 111 motorway service stations across the UK, and less than 20 of them have changing places toilets, adding 50 to that would make our motorways far more accessible in terms of toilets.
I don’t know for sure but I expect this decision has come from Zack Kerr’s incredible campaign to have accessible changing places toilets at every motorway service station in the UK.
WELL DONE ZACK! YOU DID IT!
Other measures announced today include:
- £2 million for audio and visual equipment on buses, so that passengers on almost every bus will know where and when to alight;
- A £2 million passenger awareness campaign to increase disability awareness and reduce hate crime on our network;
- An accreditation scheme for transport operators to receive formal recognition for positive work to improve disabled passengers’ experiences, such as training frontline staff and senior management on disability awareness;
- Ensuring future technology is designed inclusively from the outset, with opportunities sought to harness innovation.
- Supporting the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) to improve and simplify Passenger Assist– the system disabled passengers use to book assistance on the rail network. Train operators will be held to account for delivering on this service, ensuring they compensate passengers if the booked assistance is not provided.
Transport Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani said:
“Transport is at the heart of how we live our lives. It helps us get to work, stay in touch with friends and family, and access vital services like healthcare and education. But for our ageing population and the fifth of people who are disabled, access to transport can be far from straightforward. This Inclusive Transport Strategy is the first step in achieving a genuinely inclusive transport network, which meets the needs of all people, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.”
What about the rest of the UK?
This announcement, and the money that goes with it, is focused on England leaving the rest of the UK (Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland) wondering what will happen for them. I am no politician and will fully admit I don’t really understand politics that much at all (In the words of Danny Dyer… “It’s a mad riddle”). But what I do know is that transport is devolved in Scotland so any decisions or funding for Scotland would come from the Scottish government.
In a strange way I think we should look on this in a positive light though, because having this funding specifically for England will hopefully mean the following:
- England will get more changing places toilets on the motorways
- People traveling from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland will of course benefit because they will have access to more changing places toilets when travelling within England
- Scotland are usually leaders when it comes to things like this (they are already changing building regs to include changing places toilets) so I expect there will be an announcement really soon about what the plans are in Scotland.
- Wales & Northern Ireland will now have a standard to follow and will hopefully follow the structure set out in this strategy (and maybe even go over and above it)
- Motorway services across the UK will see the benefit that comes from having changing places toilets. And this will hopefully push them to spend their own profits in putting in more changing places toilets across all of their service stations in all parts of the UK.
This work comes ahead of the Government’s Aviation Strategy, which will set out further measures to improve the airport and flying experience for disabled people. This could include working with industry to provide better staff training, offering improved on-board facilities and even exploring possible changes to aircraft design. Maybe stay in wheelchair travel is on the horizon after all?
How do you feel about this news? Is this going to be life changing for you or your family? Let me know in the comments below.