Department of Finance & Changing Places
Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland Conor Murphy and Changing Places campaigners.

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced changes to building regulations that will require Changing Places toilets in certain buildings commonly used by the public.

Changing Places facilities are larger toilets to accommodate wheelchair users and often include disability equipment like hoists and changing benches to meet the needs of disabled people, along with their carers.

This new requirement for Changing Places toilets will be in addition to the current requirements for standard accessible toilets and will benefit around 7,000 people in Northern Ireland.

The new statutory guidance, published March 2022, is in Technical Booklet R, Access to and use of buildings, of the Building Regulations, and comes into effect in Northern Ireland on 30 June 2022.

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In 2020, it was announced that new building rules in England, effective from the following year (2021), would require new public buildings to install Changing Places toilets for disabled people.

The UK Government then announced a new £30 million fund to increase the number of Changing Places facilities across England in March 2021.

The new statutory guidance was developed in conjunction with the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (NIBRAC) and its Technical Sub-Committee, chaired by a NIBRAC member and with members co-opted externally on the basis of their expertise.

Murphy said: “This is a very important step for inclusion and equality. Increasing the number of Changing Places toilets will help make our public places more accessible and will make a huge difference to the lives of disabled people, their carers and their families.

“By enhancing this provision, it will bring us closer to having the right facilities available in buildings where people who need to can access them.

“It will make it easier for disabled people and their families to enjoy activities that many take for granted, whether going shopping or attending a concert.

“There was overwhelming support to the recent consultation with the majority of organisations and individuals agreeing with the Department’s proposals.”

The statutory guidance will apply in certain types of new buildings or in existing buildings where there is a material change of use.

The department plans to carry out research in the next mandate on further extending the provision of Changing Places toilets.

This would include requiring Changing Places toilets in specified buildings where building work is to be carried out to extend or alter an existing building.

Michaela Hollywood, Changing Places user and campaigner, commented: “This is a landmark day for inclusion.

“The reality of this guidance means that thousands of people will be able to go to the cinema without the worry of how they are going to go to the toilet.

“Having Changing Places toilets in more buildings will reduce isolation, improve mental health and esteem in disabled people who need these facilities. Disabled people will no longer need to choose between fun and going to the toilet – one of our most basic needs as a society.

“It will also mean for many disabled people that they will no longer be forced into surgical options to resolve their toileting needs.

“The impact of the new guidance will have far-reaching positive impacts on our economy and I’m delighted it’s coming into effect.”

The new rules for Northern Island state that Changing Places toilets should be provided in buildings with a capacity of 350 people or more; or a collection of smaller buildings associated with a site used for assembly, entertainment and recreation, with a capacity of 2,000 people or more.

They should be incorporated in entertainment and recreation buildings, shopping centres or retail parks with a floor area of at least 30,000 square metres, retail premises with a floor area of at least 2,500 square metres, leisure and sports buildings with a floor area of at least 5,000 square metres, hospitals and primary care centres and cemetery and crematorium buildings.

This change to Changing Places regulations in Northern Ireland is expected to present a big opportunity for mobility and access firms supplying such equipment to the country, as there will be more disability products needed to meet the increased number of buildings building Changing Places facilities.

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