Our Members - Their Stories
Freedom – one bathroom at a time
26 Jun 2023
Functional and beautiful public bathrooms for people like Charley
By Melanie Louden
Jenn Hooper is ensuring people like her daughter Charley are well cared for through Changing Places facilities.
Jenn Hooper, MNZM doesn’t settle for ‘close enough’ or ‘that’ll do’.
“We don’t do ‘better than nothing’ at Changing Places. We do ‘nothing better’. That’s how we do it. That’s my aim.”
The Hamilton mum of three founded Changing Places NZ in 2017 to provide fully accessible bathroom facilities in public places throughout the country.
A Changing Places bathroom is much more than an accessible toilet. It is a place where people with multiple or complex disabilities can get showered or changed in a safe, clean environment.
“They are built for the carers as well, because no one has ever even considered the carers. No one’s considered the most severe. These rooms do both and I’m pretty damn proud of that.”
The Changing Places NZ charity that Jenn has set up stems from her experiences with her daughter Charley.
Charley, 17, received a preventable injury at birth which resulted in her being profoundly disabled.
She has severe Cerebral Palsy, intractable epilepsy, scoliosis and microcephaly — a condition in which her brain is smaller than it should be — among other things. Charley is also blind.
Changing Places NZ started when Jenn realised “the world isn’t set up for this level of disability”.
“Then I thought ‘actually, why isn’t it?’.”
After discovering Changing Places in the UK, Jenn secured the trademark to use the Changing Places logo and branding in New Zealand and set to work creating award winning bathrooms.
The first room was installed at the Hamilton Gardens in 2018, and now there are rooms at Westfield Newmarket and Takapuna Beach in Auckland, the Rotokauri Transport Hub in Hamilton, and Drury Park in Mt Maunganui.
There will be seven rooms around the country by the end of July, and 10 by the end of the year.
“Our rooms are for those that struggle to, or cannot, use standard accessible bathrooms,” Jenn says.
Each room contains specialised equipment worth around $60,000, paid for by the asset owner. The rooms have a height adjustable adult-sized changing table, a height-adjustable toilet and hand basin, a continuous charge wall or ceiling track hoist system (loop sling compatible), a privacy screen or curtain around the toilet, and a shower.
They have adequate space for a person in a wheelchair and two caregivers to move around, and space on both sides of the toilet so two caregivers can assist the toilet user.
The rooms can only be accessed by registered Changing Places members, who pay a one-off fee to access any facility around the country.
“And if you’re a Cerebral Palsy Society member there is funding available through the getThis&That programme.”
Click here for information, membership fees and funding support.