Norfolk Loo Lady welcomes ‘fantastic’ news for more accessible toilets
PUBLISHED: 08:35 21 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:35 21 July 2020
A Norfolk campaigner who has spent three years fighting for more accessible toilets in Norfolk has hailed a new government decision ruling to build toilets in new builds as “life changing”.
On Sunday, the government announced a major change to building rules where it will be compulsory to have at least one changing place facility in new buildings and large venues from next year.
In the UK there are more than 250,000 people who need access to Changing Places of which there are 1,400 toilets currently in place.
The larger accessible toilets, include a hoist and movable sinks, changing tables and privacy screenings for disabled users, their families and carers.
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Emma Spagnola, known as the Norfolk Loo Lady, began campaign for Changing Places three years ago due to the difficulty accessing facilities for two of her sons.
As part of her aim to raise awareness, she sat on a toilet on Baker Street in London and participated in a parade in her home town of Cromer.
Since she began campaigning the number of Changing Places in Norfolk are set to increase to 20.
The mum-of-four, said; “In Norfolk when I first started doing this there were four [toilets], that’s just ridiculous. 20 isn’t a lot but its a lot better than four. With this announcement any large building, they will have to have them and that’s very exciting.
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“I know what it will mean to people. It will make a huge difference, not just in our family but in the local community. It is such a life changer and will make such a difference to so many people.”
In consultation the government were told disabled people and their carers said they had limited what they had to drink to avoid needing the loo when they are out, or have sat in soiled clothing or dirty nappies until they could find a toilet or return home.
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Under the new changes, places where more than 350 people can assemble will be required to include toilets if they are newly built or have a major refurbishment.
The government has also set aside £30m in funding to install in existing buildings.
Mrs Spagnola said: “We have had it with coronavirus, with lockdown, when you have not got a toilet. There is a person who does not have this at all every day of their life, not just from March until now. This is the best thing and if people do not understand now why these are so important, I don’t think they ever will.
“It will be so useful, it means my husband, my four children, my mum and dad even my brother, we can spend time together as a family. It wouldn’t just be our money all this money from people across the county, the country, because we can go out as a family. Until you are in this position you do take it for granted.
“I am known as the Norfolk Loo Lady and I do not care, if people know that they know why I am doing it.”
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In addition, the Department of Transport will spent 1.27m to install 37 more changing places at service stations across England - a decision which may see more affected Norfolk families travelling across country.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: “Dignity and independence is something many of us take for granted but can be a daily challenge of people with severe disabilities, especially when there is a lack of access to adequate toilet and changing facilities. All public spaces should cater for people with disabilities so they don’t have to suffer discomfort, embarrassment, or even injury without access to a Changing Place.”
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