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22 January 2018 17:38

A new multi-arts centre heralded as transforming the cultural landscape is already reaping the results of its inclusive approach.

Storyhouse in Chester is a £37million facility, mainly funded by Cheshire West & Chester Council, combining library, two theatres, a cinema, restaurant and bars, in what was the city’s Grade II listed art deco style Odeon. One of the core aims has been to create a venue for community and diversity, reaching audiences who wouldn’t otherwise even consider visiting the theatre. 

And to help ensure people who wouldn’t otherwise visit can do so, the building has been designed to be fully accessible on all levels- through to the toilets! Ramp access facilitates entry, a lift covers every storey, wheelchair spaces are available in the theatre, studio and cinema, there is a low level counter in the café, standard accessible toilets are available on every floor, with the ground floor having one of Closomat’s state-of-the-art Changing Places toilet facilities. 

The Changing Places means anyone who needs extra support to go to the toilet can do so, safe in the knowledge there is the space and equipment: bigger than a conventional wheelchair accessible toilet, Closomat’s Changing Places at Storyhouse includes a WC, ceiling track hoist, adult sized height-adjustable changing bench, privacy screen and height-adjustable wash basin. 

Alex Clfton, artistic director, Storyhouse, said, “We want Storyhouse to be a place for everyone. No-one should be excluded from seeing theatre or film, or exploringour spaces because of a disability. The disabled visitors we have had have been heartened to find the Changing Places toilet: in fact, Storyhouse is being used as an exemplar scheme for an accessible toilet design toolkit!”

Under Building Regulations and British Standards (BS8300), a Changing Places toilet is ‘desirable’ in buildings to which numbers of the public have access. Since their introduction a decade ago, almost 1000 have been opened across the UK. Under British Standards, a Changing Places is provided in addition to conventional (Building Regulations Document M) wheelchair accessible toilets, and provides 12m2 (3m x 4m), with additional equipment including an adult-sized height adjustable changing bench and ceiling track hoist.

Closomat is Britain’s leading provider of helpful toileting solutions, at home and away, including Changing Places and their similar Space to Change facilities. Uniquely, the company can provide an in-house, ‘one- stop-shop’ complete package for ‘away from home’ assisted accessible toilet facilities, from design and commissioning, through to project management, supply and installation, and can also provide subsequent maintenance and repair. Its weIbsite is the most comprehensive resource available about Changing Places for campaigners, providers and specifiers alike, with a raft of support information including white papers, calling cards, CAD blocks, video and case studies.