A group of sports fans with disabilities are calling on the government to update legislation and allow all people, regardless of their disability, to visit and take part in sporting fixtures by ensuring Changing Places toilets are made mandatory at venues.
Francesca Dean, Rachel Bury, and Zack Kerr – who all have cerebral palsy and are wheelchair users – are backing the #RiseForSport campaign led by RISE Adaptations – one of the UK’s few Changing Places providers, which helps to change existing spaces into Changing Places Toilets (CPTs) or build CPTs as an add-on to existing buildings.
Together, they’ve launched a petition on Change.org calling for current legislation to be updated to include existing sports venues, stating it’s a “matter of dignity” for disabled fans and athletes who often have to make the humiliating choice of risking no access to toilet facilities during their visit to sports fixtures – or not to go at all.
At present, only new builds with a capacity of 350+ people must include CPTs. The petition calls for this to apply to existing venues across the UK, too.
Zack Kerr, 27, from Accrington, has previously successfully campaigned to introduce the toilets in motorway service stations, and is now turning his focus to sports venues.
Zack, said: “I am a very sociable person and live life to the full. I enjoy all sorts of leisure activities and getting out and about as often as I can, but going to sporting events is either a huge gamble, taking a risk of having no accessible facilities available, or not going out at all.
“Even leisure facilities such as swimming pools and sports centres rarely have Changing Places Toilets, making visits as a supporter, spectator, or participant almost impossible. This restricts my ability to experience these events and also, my ability to spend quality time with family and friends at such events.”
Francesca Dean, 28, from Rossendale, said: “This is such an important campaign. I use Changing Places Toilets regularly to accommodate my personal care requirements, but there are simply not enough available.
“Having more toilets would provide more comfort and dignity to people in the same or similar situation as myself. Disability still shouldn’t be a taboo subject – this needs to change.”
And Rachel Bury, 35, from Accrington, said: “I love sport and it’s one of my most important outlets when it comes to maintaining a good headspace when things are getting a bit much for me.
“I am a season ticket holder at Manchester United Football Club – where luckily, Changing Places Toilets are available – and I have played the Paralympic recognised sport of Boccia in the past, up to national level. For many years I have been able to manage in a standard disabled bathroom facility because of my ability to be able to self-transfer. However due to a combination of different health struggles within the last 18 months I have come to appreciate that this might not always be the case.
“One of the main things I do to help myself in this situation is to restrict the amount of fluid I take on board when I am outside of the home to avoid embarrassing situations. If I knew Changing Places Toilets would be available at these locations it would mean so much to me and would help give me confidence to try things again or who knows – maybe even some new hobbies.”
Changing Places campaigner Jane Cooper, who is also the Managing Director of Access & Inclusion UK, is backing the appeal.
Jane said: “It’s a question I often ask people and the answer is always ‘no’, yet it’s a situation I have had to face many times in the past with my, now adult, daughter Megan.
“Unfortunately, it is a choice between staying at home, going out for just a couple of hours or facing the prospect of changing the person you care about on a public toilet floor. That’s not an option people should be facing in 2023.
“Things are getting better, and we are seeing more and more Changing Places Toilets installed in shopping centres, attractions, motorway services and leisure centers, but sports venues are severely lagging behind. Hopefully this petition can help change this.”
According to data available on the official Changing Places Toilet map, fewer than 10 percent of UK sporting venues have Changing Places Toilets in place.
Standard accessible toilets do not offer what is needed for many disabled people.
CPTs provide a height adjustable changing bench, hoist, privacy screen and extra space to meet the needs of users.
To support the trio in the bid to get this issue raised in parliament and to get legislative change to ensure all sports venues have right accessible facilities needed welcome all fans, sign the petition here: www.change.org/riseforsport
For further information about the Rise For Sport campaign, visit www.riseforsport.co.uk