Changing Places, transforming lives
While every project we undertake is designed to make a difference to people’s lives by providing beautiful and functional living spaces, there are some that are particularly close to our hearts—those that create accessible environments for people with disabilities.
The Equality Act 2010 cites, ‘a duty to make reasonable adjustments,’ to any building used by the public, ensuring that everyone can benefit from its services. However, Professor Stephen Hawking, never backwards in coming forwards about matters of importance, puts it more strongly: ‘In fact, we have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.’
For the Jubilee Community Church in East Grinstead, inclusion is paramount. They run their building as a community centre as well as a place of worship, with an estimated 3000 people through their welcoming doors every week.
Our professional involvement with JCC started in 2014, when we were looking to form an opening to the café—a monstrous undertaking that involved digging up the toughest imaginable industrial concrete floor, putting in steel columns, and then a thumping great steel.
At the time, the building already had two disabled toilets. As we discovered, the existing toilets didn’t suit all needs, in that they weren’t fit for purpose for some members of the community.
This came to light as a result of a chance conversation. One of the JCC trustees, Cris Payne, talked to a teenage wheelchair-user’s mum, leaving an event early because daughter Becky needed the loo. The only one she could use was at home. Imagine how limiting that is. In that moment, the Changing Places idea was born and we were delighted to play our part.
The Changing Places Consortium campaigns to provide toilets with extra space and equipment, including a changing bench and hoist. There are a quarter of a million people in the UK who need them, but only 1000 in existence. So far!
With Cris as the driving force behind the vision, we prepared the various drawings, dealt with trial pits and investigations, helped appoint a structural engineer, dealt with Building Control, tendered the work to several builders, prepared the Contract Documents, made site visits and administered the contract. We’re currently dealing with the final account, and will be back in the New Year to re-inspect at the end of the 3-month rectification period.
The work for the CP loo has not been cheap. The money was raised by donations, and by grants from various local organisations.
The results are incalculable.
At the opening ceremony, it was a joy to hear one of the dads saying that he’d just booked his son’s birthday party at JCC, now that he and his friends have the Changing Place facility. Becky also told us that when she can’t use a loo, it’s not just her who’s excluded, but her whole family.
Within the first 24 hours, the Changing Place was used 3 times. There is a real need, and the new facility means that other wheelchair users can consider attending existing activities at the centre, or running their own.
There’s a CP loo at the library in Edenbridge, the town where we have our offices. We visited a while ago, and were told that it was also open to the homeless, who might need to shower and change. These facilities really are about inclusion for all. As it says on the Changing Places website, sometimes, you need to change one thing to open up a world of possibility.
Thank you to the dream team – I would have no hesitation recommending you to anyone!
Cris Payne, JCC Trustee
(writing about the architects and contractors)
Official opening, 7 October 2017: https://jccloo.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/how-many-people-can-you-fit-in-one-loo/
Changing Places: http://www.changing-places.org/
Jubilee Community Centre: http://www.jubileecommunitycentre.co.uk/
Jubilee Community Church: http://www.jcceg.co.uk/