Why do supermarkets need Changing Places?

Posted on 4 December 2020 in Changing Places

Over 250,000 people in the UK have disabilities meaning they require help with changing and using the toilet. Despite this fact, a staggering six out of ten leading supermarket chains do not have a single Changing Place across any of their stores. Overall, it’s reported that less than 0.1% of retailers in the UK have a Changing Places toilet! Is this acceptable?

Some large retailers, such as IKEA and Tesco, have already committed to installing Changing Places and begun rolling the facilities nationwide. However, most supermarkets, including M&S, Waitrose, Lidl and Co-op, do not have a single registered CP toilet to meet customer needs.

In this article, we hear first-hand from Changing Place users why this is unacceptable and summarise why all supermarkets should be committing to providing truly accessible facilities from 2021.

1)     Supermarkets are for Everyone

Shopping is a must-do for everyone. Whether you’re a family of four, living alone, or in a flat share with friends, everyone needs food and household essentials.  So, why aren’t supermarkets inclusive of everyone?

For most of us, popping into the shop to buy some bits for dinner on the way home from work is simple. For someone with profound disabilities, this can be almost impossible without Changing Place facilities.

Beyond the necessity, for some, the chance to go shopping is an escape from everyday life – even a proof of their independence. This is something we think everyone can relate too more after experiencing COVID-19 lockdowns. Why should anyone be excluded from this basic right?

One Changing Places user commented:

“I’ve been on days out where I’ve just had one or two sips of water all day because there haven’t been any Changing Places toilets.  Standard accessible toilets just aren’t good enough.  When you have a powerchair or two carers with you, only a Changing Place will do.”

Everyone has the right to use a public toilet, clearly, this right must also apply for people with disabilities. Having access to a Changing Places toilet is vital for disabled people and should be the norm.

Parents can’t leave children at home

It’s not just the 250,000 people who personally rely on Changing Places who are affected by the lack of suitable facilities. It’s their families too.

For families with multiple children, a Changing Place can be the difference between going for a family day out and being able to grab some shopping or staying in and having to order online.

Jo Elgarf’s five-year-old daughter, Nora, has a rare brain condition called polymicrogyria and needs Changing Places toilets. She has two other children — Nora’s twin, Layla, and Youssef, seven.

Jo commented:

Changing Places toilets mean we can enjoy a day out as a family.  If there are no Changing Places, it’s not just Nora who is affected — her brother and sister are, too.

Changing Places toilets in supermarkets and other large public venues should be the norm.  They allow families to do things that other people may take for granted…”

For these families, simply stocking up on food becomes a challenge — one that supermarkets urgently need to address.

2)     Stay ahead of the competition

Changing Places toilets in supermarkets and large public venues should be, and are, becoming the norm.

With Tesco recently announcing the installation of their 100th CP, supermarkets who fail to commit to inclusivity are falling behind. The lack of accessible facilities reflects poorly on brand image, damages public relations, and can ultimately impact the bottom line.

Purple Pound

You should also bear in mind the Purple Pound. The spending power of disabled people was at around £250 billion last year in the UK.

Fact: Businesses lose approximately £2 Billion a month by ignoring the needs of disabled people!

So that is a big indicator that these public areas need to be accessible.

By making your supermarket a more inclusive environment, you open doors for more people to enjoy (and spend money at) your store.

If supermarkets cater to the needs of Changing Place users, it allows families to enjoy days out, take long journeys to visit family and get the shopping on the way home, all without a second thought.

3)     From 2021, they will be a legal requirement

Any new public buildings, such as art galleries, universities and, of course, supermarkets, will be legally required to install Changing Places facilities from 1 January 2021.

Following consultation, this is the government’s response to a proposal to increase the provision of Changing Places toilets.

Did you know: The proposal was launched by the Changing Place Consortium. The charity has been campaigning for more accessible toilets since 2005!

As supermarkets are essential, it is crucial that they cater to their customers’ needs and requirements. These new regulations are helping to address the needs of disabled people who have been previously overlooked.

It’s a great opportunity to welcome more people to your store…

Are there any negatives to installing a Changing Places toilet?

Occasionally, supermarket managers have some concerns about how Changing Places would work in their stores.

So, we are addressing some common questions…

The two main concerns are cost, and how a Changing Places facility would fit into their plans — especially in existing buildings.

Cost — £30 million is being allocated to Changing Places. When funding is distributed, this may mean existing supermarkets have the opportunity to incorporate a Changing Places facility within the store.

Size — If space is an issue, modular Changing Places can be built outside of the building!

Take a look at our National Galleries of Scotland install. We worked with Portakabin to build a Changing Places facility to overcome the gallery’s building restrictions (they are a listed building).

If an outdoor facility isn’t possible, there is a way to compromise. You can make the room 3x3m as opposed to 4x3m. This still has all the specialist equipment, like a hoist and changing bench. However, it cannot be signed off as a registered Changing Place.

To help you visualize sizing and everything inside the room, we can provide you with a render drawing like so…



So, our overall message is, everyone needs to be included, from individuals with carers to families.  No one should be excluded from doing their everyday jobs because there are no facilities to cater for their needs. Supermarkets who fail to commit to installing Changing Places risk alienating their customer base, damaging their brand, losing sales, and potentially even legal ramifications.

If you would like to see a render of how the full room would look, receive more advice on funding, or just find out more about Changing Places in general, be sure to get in touch:

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