So many people ask me how we achieved a Changing Places (accessible toilet with room tracking hoist and adult sized changing bench) on a farm. It was really quite simple. And a lot of fun! So I thought I would share our story with you. This was the first Changing Places that we achieved as part of our campaign, so it will always be very special to us.
How it came about…
I approached Bryan and Dawn, the owners of Longdown Activity Farm, near Ashurst in the New Forest, with my idea to fundraise for a Changing Places toilet for their visitors, as my little boy, Hadley, requires the use of adult changing facilities when using the toilet. Hadley has Cerebral Palsy and is a full time wheelchair user. His disability also means he is incontinent and without a changing bench and hoist in an accessible toilet, he is forced to lie on the toilet floor to be changed and be dangerously lifted in and out of his wheelchair. The farm is very dear to me. I have been visiting since I was a child and my children now both love it there too. Bryan and Dawn were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea and were already looking at how they could finance a facility as a result of the local press coverage they had seen and heard regarding my campaign. Between us we came up with fundraising ideas and a timescale, as well as a budget for the project and worked out where the best place would be to locate the facility.
We created and held a Dung Heap Challenge – sounds a pongy as it was – where teams of local families and friends, shovelled manure during their Christmas holidays to raise money for the loo. We got our local pub involved and Hadley’s school PTA as well as some other friends and local businesses and it was a blast! It raised thousands of pounds towards the facility as well as lots of awareness of our campaign – the local press covered the event on a few occasions. We also held a quiz night, thanks to our local pub, The Saxon Inn in Calmore, and a car boot sale to help boost the funds. We collated money both in cash and via a justgiving crowdfunding page. We also approached a local charity for a grant towards the cost of the facility, which they kindly granted. As a community, we raised approximately half of the funds required to pay for the facility, with Longdown Activity Farm covering the rest.
Building the facility.
We approached local businesses for help which proved very worthwhile. Storage Onsite Solutions based in Marchwood, very kindly provided us with a shipping container free of charge, that we then set about converting into a toilet as there was not a suitable building on site at the farm that we could use. Using a container makes a lot of sense in this sort of environment and reduces the build time significantly as well as cost. Crown Paint kindly provided the paint for both the exterior and the interior of the container. We were also very fortunate that my father in law is a builder and so he was able to undertake much of the physical conversion and building work that was required. The rest of us in the family were set tasks too, like painting and buying materials! Other local businesses also helped with either free labour or reduced costs as the word spread about what we were doing. People really wanted to help!
Deciding what equipment to include:
The farm chose a company who could provide all of the equipment we needed as well as install it – Clos-o-mat/Total Hygiene. With their help, we were able to combine the best equipment for the space with the most cost-effective option. The facility includes a ceiling mounted, room tracking hoist, a mobile, height adjustable adult-sized changing trolley, toilet with room either side for carers and a height adjustable sink. It was a really simple process and they worked with the other contractors to make sure that installation and build went smoothly. This was very important as the farm was open during the build and so the process could not be too disruptive for both animals and visitors alike.
How long did it take?
The whole project, from fundraising to opening day, took just under four months – which is pretty impressive even if we do say so ourselves! We invited media and guests to come along to the opening of the facility and lots of people attended. It has been met with such an incredible response.
Since opening the facility in March 2016, the farm has seen a dramatic increase in customers with additional needs- in fact the numbers have doubled! In addition, regular visitors who need these facilities are able to stay longer than they could before the facility was available. And with the purple pound being worth an estimated £212bn*, that’s good news for business as well as the customers.
Bryan Pass, owner of the farm said:”Without a doubt I can honestly say that we have doubled our visitors with additional needs. But even if only one person used the facility each day, it was well worth the investment. Judging by the smiles on so many of our visitors faces requiring the changing facilities, we really did make the right decision by installing them.”
The Changing Places is currently nominated for an award at the ‘Loo of the Year Awards’ – and quite rightly so. It’s made a huge impact on our lives, providing us with somewhere to enjoy as a family, without having to worry about the danger and indignity of lifting Hadley onto a floor to manage his continence needs. Hadley cannot stop grinning when he visits the farm. He feels safe and equal, he can have fun, he doesn’t have to worry, and we can stay all day! There are hundreds of other families that are benefiting too, not just us. Here’s just some of the things they have said…
“On a practical level it means we can spend all day at the farm, this week that meant we could enjoy the Halloween activities as well as the normal stuff. But it probably means more to me emotionally. It is an indication of wanting to understand the challenges our families face and for a small business that is super impressive. It means that my family’s custom is as valuable as any other family. It takes away some of that extra level of thought and planning (and therefore exhaustion and frustration) that is involved in taking a child like Sam out for the day.” Jenny Bee
You can see a little video review of the facility by Jenny and Sam, by clicking here.
“I work at a special needs primary school and we have visited Longdown for several years now, 10+, on our residential trip away with our year 6 students. We love Longdown and every year they are always so very welcoming to all of our students. We are a generic school, so our pupils are all unique and many we have taken require a decent and appropriate changing facility. This year it made all the difference for our wheelchair users. Clean, cleverly designed and accessible for all, couldn’t ask for much more. It was also helpful and more dignified for our older physically able students, who require a bit more space when being changed for behavioural reasons also.
“Longdown’s improved, simple but so very effective facilities meant our young people had all their simple requests met in a lovely clean and comfortable space. They also got to have a bit of a stretch and position change which is so important and must’ve felt great for them. Thank you Longdown.” Lucy Bishop
“We have a nine year old who is disabled and this new facility is wonderful. I know we can have a full day at Longdown and not need to worry about finding somewhere to change Charlie. It is amazing. I wish more had them and they become compulsory for new buildings that are open to the public.” Helen Wilson
“We use the Changing Places facility at Longdown and it’s brilliant, made such a difference. Prior to it being there, we could only visit the farm on a warm sunny day so I could lay my son down on a blanket in the picnic area to change him. Now I can go all year round!”