Northern Ireland is amongst the best and worst for baby-changing facilities in the United Kingdom, a new study has shown.
The study counted the number of public toilets listed on the toilet map website for every UK council area and large UK city.
It identified which ones were labelled as having baby-changing facilities and used this figure to calculate the percentage of baby-change bathrooms in each area. Only cities and councils with 25 toilets or more were included.
Out of the 398 local authorities across the UK, Causeway Coast and Glens was the third worst council on percentage of public toilets with baby changers – out of its 54 public toilets, only one had baby changing facility, at 1.9 percent.
Mid and East Antrim had 16 percent of toilets with baby-change facilities available.
Ards and North Down Council was the sixth worst – out of its 39 public toilets, it also only had one baby changing facility, at 2.6 percent. The worst was the Shetland Islands, which had no facilities in its 27 public toilets – that is 0 percent.
However, the picture wasn’t wasn’t completely negative – out of the highest percentage of toilets with baby changing facilities, Derry and Strabane came 11th out of the 398 councils. Out of its 31 public toilets, 17 had baby changing facilities, at 54.8 percent.
In cities with a population of over 50,000 across the UK, Belfast came ninth in the list of cities with the highest percentage of public toilets with baby changers – out of its 51 public toilets, 23 had baby changing facilities, at 45.1 percent. Coventry was the best at 59.5 percent.
Toilet Map defines public toilets as “all toilets that the public can access without needing to be a customer. This includes public toilets, toilets in train stations, bus stations, service/petrol stations, tube stations, ferry terminals, airports and other transport networks.
“It also includes shopping centre toilets, toilets in public buildings, such as town halls, libraries, hospitals, museums and leisure centres. It also includes toilets in other businesses where the business agrees that the public can use their toilets without having to buy anything.”
QS Supplies, who were behind the study, said:
“Things can feel pretty tense when you’re away from home and desperately need the bathroom. If you’re holding a baby with a soiled nappy, the tears and screams of discomfort only intensify the situation. And yet your options are limited even beyond the already-limited options of most other public toilet users.
“Indeed, parents and carers are near the back of the queue when it comes to getting decent access to public bathrooms. The lack of baby-change public toilets is so drastic that it has created tension with people who use accessible toilets due to disability (themselves underserved by the UK’s bathrooms) and driven other parents to extreme lengths like changing a nappy on a cafe table.
“Meanwhile, dads and carers who use the men’s toilets have it even tougher. Regularly forced to lay their own clothing on the Gents’ floor as a makeshift changing table since the UK’s baby-change facilities are mostly confined to the Ladies’ rooms.”
It added: “The NHS also flags the importance of safety when changing a nappy. When no decent facilities are available, parents and carers are forced to choose whether to leave the baby wet or change the nappy in a cold, exposed place and unsuitable surface.
“Hurried, the chance of a fall or other incident becomes far more likely. So when will authorities and businesses hurry up and create better conditions for carers and parents to change their babies safely in public toilets?”