Tom Hulbert and Richard Smaldon Innova Football Changing Places
Tom Hulbert and Richard Smaldon

Following ever increasing demand to make large public spaces as accessible as possible to those with additional needs, Innova Care Concepts has hired a new member of staff dedicated to Changing Places projects. The move comes following a trio of installations at football stadiums in the North East.

The growing demand for accessible toileting facilities at football grounds comes following a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealing that many Premiership clubs are yet to honour their agreement to install a Changing Places by August 2017.

The Commission’s recent report ‘The state of play: progress on Premier League clubs’ accessibility’ reviewed the progress of every club (23 in total) in the Premier League during 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 seasons to make their grounds more accessible for disabled fans.

It found that Premier League clubs have made substantial progress to improve facilities over the two-years, however, highlighted more work was still needed.

Most recently, Chelsea Football Club signed a legal agreement in May 2018 with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to improve disability access at its stadium and regularly update the watchdog on its progress.

“Premier League football clubs might finally be taking notice of the lack of accessibility they offer, but that doesn’t mean that clubs in lower tiers shouldn’t be taking action as well.” Tom Hulbert

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Disabled fans support their teams through thick and thin; it’s good to see clubs doing the same for them. Clubs have come a long way. During our discussions, we saw some excellent examples of how clubs engaged with disabled fans to introduce many positive changes. Along the way, we also met some resistance. It’s pleasing that so many clubs – including Chelsea, one of the world’s biggest – have taken our threat of legal action seriously and are now working with the Commission to deliver real change. It’s important that all clubs make disability access a priority.”

Working with top-tier football clubs, Innova has already supplied and installed Changing Places at St James’ Park and Riverside Stadium – the homes of Newcastle United and Middlesbrough FC respectively.

The company will also be installing a Changing Place at Sunderland AFC’s home ground in July 2018.

Tom Hulbert, Managing Director at Innova, said: “Changing Places are so important. You see them popping up in the news more and more – and with good reason. Premier League football clubs might finally be taking notice of the lack of accessibility they offer, but that doesn’t mean that clubs in lower tiers shouldn’t be taking action as well.”

Set up in 2006 to highlight that standard accessible toilets simply do not meet the needs of the wider disabled community, the Changing Places campaign aims to ensure the right equipment and space are available for those who need it in big public spaces.

To help meet the increased demand for public spaces to provide Changing Places, Innova says it has taken on a new member of staff to deal specifically with these projects.

Richard Smaldon, Innova’s new Changing Places Consultant, said: “I am delighted to be supporting the Innova team at such an important time for accessibility and inclusive design. Our goal is to install Changing Places in as many public spaces as possible ensuring that people with health conditions or impairments have the right facilities that they need.

“We’re already in talks with other football clubs and sports stadiums that are looking to install Changing Places, but we’re also exploring opportunities with many progressive public venues. I look forward to Changing Places being readily available wherever disabled persons enjoy spending their time.”

Changing Place facilities are specifically designed to provide the best equipment and support to most people with profound and complex disabilities, with required equipment including changing benches, hoist systems, height adjustable basins and more specialist equipment.

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