London’s Changing Places, our experience
We live in Retford which has excellent rail links to London (East Coast Line). We can be in the Capital in 1hr 35 mins on the train. When we arrive our first stop is to use the fantastic Changing Places facility at Kings Cross, a pot of gold at the end of the line!
For my Son (11yrs) this facility is essential. He is a wheelchair user and unable to use a standard disabled toilet, we feel and lucky that modernisation to the station incorporated this much needed toilet. So, first impressions all good, Changing Places on arrival and a welcome feeling of inclusion, we are, after all in London!
But then its goes a bit downhill… where are all the other Changing Places toilets? How do we get from A- B? Where will we stay overnight? Will my Son cope with the Crowds? Leaving the station gives us a feeling of horrible insecurity and anxiety, visiting London can be stressful enough! If you have a family member with a disability or impairment it is very difficult.
London’s Changing Places Map
We have taken our Son twice to London, planning for these events is essential. We do a lot of research beforehand and use the Changing Places toilet map to find and access toilets (with a bench and hoist) Changing Places are disappointingly thin on the ground for this city. At the moment Central London really only has 3 hoist assisted toilets – Tate, Parliament and Embankment.
The Embankment facility was shut on our last visit. Parliament is only accessible to visitors and the Tate, well that’s on the south bank so it is a fair trek to travel and the Art Gallery setting may not be your thing. Other stations have CP facilities but not all. There are also a few hospitals which have CP but who on earth wants to visit a hospital on a family day out in London? We see too many hospitals as is!
Our expectations of London’s Changing Places
I did expect facilities to be a little better (than where we live) in the capital but I was so wrong! We visited usual tourist hot spots, London Eye, Trafalgar Square etc. At the Natural History Museum (after searching for the accessible entrance) we were able to go in without queueing, a lot of places adopt this standard and it really benefits my son’s needs. Toileting is the problem, not just for us but for a lot of others too! Toilet queues force people to use any they can! Disabled toilets in busy tourist attractions are usually in a pretty bad state due to this and the prospect of having to change a child on the floor in one is awful.
Changing Places that give other benefits
I dislike my son being in a wheelchair all day too, Changing Places give him the opportunity to have a good stretch as well as offering him dignity to attend his toileting needs. Changing Places also allow us or a carer to use the toilet in (screened) privacy. When I am with my son I am not able to use a toilet myself as I would have to leave him outside on his own.
Changing Places would be the no 1 thing to improve our experience of London. The scope for choosing activities is narrowed and limited without these. We will visit again no doubt but with less enthusiasm. Go to Sheffield and you will find more CP per sq mile than in London…..
It was challenging
We found the bus system favourable for getting about in a wheelchair. I would be worried about using a bus now after seeing incidents and unhelpful bus drivers on social media. We didn’t use the tube (some stations don’t have lifts) We got around on wheels and on foot, very busy in some areas but that is to be expected. I read the south bank had been improved for access for wheelchairs after the Olympics in 2012. Please someone tell me/how where!! ?? We struggled to get onto the south bank via road and lifted our son up steps to Westminster Bridge to get off. It is simply exhausting trying to find everything, going off on tangents and pushing a manual wheelchair. Signage is very important.
We stayed overnight in a hotel in London, my son was a few years younger (just about managing without hoist stage) so we didn’t seek any assistive equipment, but we would need it now. We would need a hoist and bathroom/ wet room. Since then I’ve not really looked into accommodation in London so I’m not sure what it has to offer but if it’s anything like finding holiday accommodation, it’s a tiresome activity.
Booking online accommodation could be easier – especially deals, always feel we have to contact the hotel beforehand to make sure it’s accessible, we get the right room so we feel we miss out on offers.
- Changing Places
- Hotel accommodation
- Online central website for information (rather than looking at lots of different websites)
Our energetic, detailed and tireless planning continues for family trips away and days out but the more we come together and support each other then maybe it makes things easier and we can get more changed in the bigger picture for all of us.
Thank you for reading,
Alison Beevers and family