C35A0004M&G Real Estate, owner of The Galleries shopping centre in Washington, has invested more than £60,000 to install a new specialist toilet facility that will serve the profoundly disabled community of Washington and the surrounding area.

The new Changing Places facility officially opened on Friday 8 July, with a ribbon being cut by Sarah Mitchell (Changing Places campaigner) and the Galleries management team.

The opening of this Changing Places facility comes in the same month that the Changing Places Consortium, a group that work together to campaign for improved toilet facilities for over ¼ million people, marks its tenth anniversary. This new accessible facility features an adult changing bench and ceiling track hoist installed by Changing Places sponsor and equipment manufacturer Aveso Ltd.

The Changing Places consortium comprises Mencap, PAMIS, Centre for Accessible Environments, Nottingham City Council, Dumfries & Galloway Council, the Scottish Government and independent members, who came together in 2006 to campaign for the rights of people with profound and multiple learning, and/or other physical disabilities, to access their community.

Rossanna Trudgian, co-chair of the Changing Places Consortium said:

“There is growing momentum behind Changing Places and the importance of making public places accessible to the whole community. We now have more than 840 Changing Places toilets nationwide and the shopping centre industry, in particular, is leading the way with almost 50 UK shopping centres now providing these more advanced facilities within the heart of local communities. We are delighted that M&G Real Estate has joined this initiative with the provision of this specialist toilet at The Galleries Shopping Centre in Washington.”

Over a quarter of a million people across the UK cannot use standard accessible toilets, including people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and some elderly people. To use the toilet in safety and comfort, many people need to be able to access a Changing Places toilet, which has more space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist.

The opening of the Changing Places toilet at the Galleries will allow more people to visit the centre in comfort, knowing that the facilities can cater suitably to their needs.

Chris Poole, Asset Manager, M&G Real Estate adds:

“We believe in making The Galleries accessible to all customers and it is a pleasure to have this facility open this week to serve those that might need more specialist facilities than are available in a standard disabled toilet. As a business we take real care to ensure we respond to the needs of the communities we operate in and were pleased to invest in making the centre more accessible to those with profound disabilities and their families”.