Nick Bundock shares how the parish is looking to make its buildings in the heart of Didsbury as accessible as possible.
More than 250,000 people living in the UK need a Changing Places facility in order to get out and about and enjoy the kind of activities that the rest of us take for granted. A Changing Places facility is the equivalent of a ‘super accessible toilet’. I hadn’t heard of Changing Places until recently, but with our church toilets in desperate need of modernisation our architect suggested that we take a look at installing facilities required by people with profound and multiple disabilities such as motor neurone disease (MND), multiple sclerosis (MS), and cerebral palsy. With an expanding older generation, the Changing Places super-loo has considerably more ‘customers’ joining the queue!
St James and Emmanuel has been taking deliberate and planned steps towards becoming a more inclusive church and along the way we’ve been discovering all sorts of barriers faced by many sections of our community. This year The National Lottery Heritage Fund has enabled us to build a new ramp at the front of Emmanuel church. We’re also creating a new community garden at the front of the church with specially designed picnic benches for people with disabilities. These will be installed as soon as possible. What I hadn’t appreciated were how many people are not currently served by the standard disabled toilets found in most buildings. A Changing Places toilet is comprehensively equipped with facilities such as a height adjustable adult changing bench, a shower,
a peninsular toilet, grab rails and, the icing on the cake, a ceiling track hoist.
We don’t see this project as a ‘St James and Emmanuel project’ and although it will directly benefit our congregations, Home Community Café and our user groups it is envisaged that our new Changing Places toilet will open up the whole village to people with complex needs. We would be more than happy for people to use our facilities whether or not they are visiting us or shopping, eating or drinking somewhere else in the village. In fact, Changing Places have even produced a map of the UK showing where these special facilities are located so that those with high level disability can plan where they shop and where they can stop.
Phil Downs, a local Didsbury man with complex needs, is part of the steering group. Phil was a cadet with the Metropolitan Police until an accident at the aged of 18 left him with life-changing injuries while performing a somersault during a rehearsal of a display, a performance intended for The Queen. Phil has led a full life and worked extensively for people with disabilities, he’s even been awarded an MBE for services to disabled people. This latest project will enable people like Phil to access Didsbury village comfortably and with the kind of dignity most of us take for granted.
If you would like to contribute towards this important project then you can do so by BACS using the details:
Account Number: 00012894
Sort Code : 40-52-40
Reference: Changing Places
Header image courtesy of Changing Places