Published 03 February 2022
Accessible bathrooms are a standard feature of most public buildings. While they are suitable for many people, they often aren’t suitable for people with specific needs. Changing Places New Zealand founder, Jenn Hooper, knows this first-hand. Jenn’s daughter, Charley, is disabled from a birth injury.
“Without Changing Places, when we’re out and Charley needs a change, we have to lay her on the tailgate of our car,” says Jenn. “That's usually where she gets changed if we're somewhere that doesn't have any anywhere else.”
“These facilities are a game changer for those that need them, the cared-for and their carers. They’re often the difference between staying and home and getting out and about”.
What is a Changing Places bathroom?
Changing Places bathrooms, provide an option for people who cannot use a standard accessible bathroom.
Features of Changing Places bathrooms include:
- adequate space to move around, for a person in a wheelchair and two caregivers
- a secure access system for registered users only, to ensure the room is only being used for its intended purpose
- a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing table, hand basin and toilet with privacy screen or curtain
- a ceiling track or mobile hoist
- wall-mounted handrails
- space on both sides of the toilet, so two caregivers can assist the toilet user
- a shower on a flexible hose over the changing bench/shower plinth
- a non-slip floor and well-designed wet area
- a large waste disposal bin and sharps disposal container
“Changing Places have facilities for people that struggle to, or cannot, use typical accessibility bathrooms,” says Jenn.
“For example, I know a man with muscular dystrophy who is over six feet tall. He can get himself around at the moment. But, normally he has to have a caregiver with him, in case he has to do a bowel motion somewhere away from home, as he struggles with the ordinary disability toilets.”
“He’s found the height-adjustable toilet a real game changer. It's increased the length of his independence, which is huge.”
“These rooms aren’t about excluding those that don’t need them. They’re about including those that do.”
Where you can find Changing Places bathrooms
There are currently three Changing Places bathrooms in New Zealand, with more on the way.
Changing Places bathrooms currently open:
- Westfield Mall Newmarket, Auckland (external link)
- Hamilton Gardens (external link)
- Rotokauri Transport Hub, North Hamilton (external link)
Changing Places bathrooms in development (with more to be announced soon!):
- Moray Place, Dunedin
- Gould Reserve, Takapuna (external link)
How you can access a Changing Places bathroom
One of Jenn’s main aims with Changing Places is to ensure the bathrooms are kept in good condition, so they are always ready for people who need them.
“These are public spaces,” says Jenn. “And we know that not everybody out there is going to be respectful of them. We needed to know that when people need these rooms, they are clean and available.”
To make sure of this, Jenn developed a membership system. For a small one-off fee, you can become a registered member of Changing Place. You’ll be issued with a small electronic tag that gives you access to all current and future Changing Places bathrooms throughout New Zealand.
What to do if you want a Changing Places bathroom in your community
If you want to see a Changing Places bathroom in your community, Jenn suggests you get in touch with her to see if there is one already on the way. If there isn’t, Jenn is happy to provide people with advice on how to campaign their local council to get a Changing Places bathroom built.
“Instead of just stating their current facilities are lacking, you've got to be able to provide a plan of what is good enough,” says Jenn. “That’s where Changing Places New Zealand comes in. With the first Changing Places bathroom in Hamilton, we went the extra mile with the Hamilton City Council.”
“I'd already picked the piece of ground to put it on, then explained why I wanted it there: it had parking, it had foot traffic, and it was somewhere that people wanted to visit… We also chose the equipment and layout, priced it all out, and worked out the access system.”
“Then I had 20 minutes with Hamilton's previous mayor, Andrew King, to pitch this from beginning to end. Because I'd already done all the work for him it was easier to convince the council to go ahead with it.”
Supporting Changing Places
If you’d like to support Jenn’s work in getting Changing Places Bathrooms built across the country, you can:
- register as a member
- make a donation
- help spread the word to everyone you know!