Government's £2m in funding will help build new toilets and changing facilities.
According to the Department for Transport (DfT), the money will be used to fund new facilities, including ‘Changing Places’ toilets, which offer more space and equipment than a standard disabled toilet. The facilities are expected to be ready by the early 2020s.
The government says the facilities are needed because more than a quarter of a million people in the UK cannot use standard accessible toilets, meaning they are forced to either go without a toilet break, stay at home or be changed by their carers on toilet floors. However, with equipment such as adult-sized changing benches and hoists, the DfT says the Changing Places toilets will be safer and more comfortable for those with conditions such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy.
Service stations across the country are being invited to bid for a share of the fund, which has been launched in partnership with Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK). The winning bids will be chosen based on “detailed proposals” that set out the equipment they intend to include in the facilities and total budget, as well as other, broader accessibility measures, such as disabled parking or wheelchair ramps.
Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani said although the DfT had partnered with MDUK, the scheme would make the strategic road network more usable for everyone.
“Today marks the next step towards our ambition of delivering a fully inclusive transport network,” she said. “It is unacceptable that, despite welcome investment in some areas, our roadside services are not more accessible for over a quarter of a million people, and I am determined to do more. Our partnership with MDUK will help ensure that everyone, disabled or not, can use our roads and I encourage as many operators as possible to apply for funding.”
And Catherine Woodhead, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said the project was important for disabled people who tend to find cars the most convenient mode of transport.
“Individuals and families living with a disability often tell us that travelling by car is the easiest way for them to get from A to B,” she said. “Building Changing Places toilets at motorway service stations will make it easier for more than a quarter of a million people and their families to visit friends, go on holiday, or simply enjoy a day out somewhere – activities the rest of us take for granted.
“We’re delighted the Department for Transport has recognised this need, and look forward to working together on delivering this transformational project.”