THE opening of a rare toilet specially designed for profoundly disabled people is set to make a big difference, according to a mum.

A newly installed ‘changing places’ toilet in the revamped Orchard Centre in Didcot makes the town one of the few places in the UK to offer two of the facilities, adding to the toilet already open in the Cornerstone Arts Centre.

With a hoisting system, the facility is bigger than a standard accessible toilet and has an adult-size changing bench but it is one of only eight in the whole of Oxfordshire, closing off large swathes of the county to some people.

Karen England, who ran a year-long campaign to encourage developer Hammerson and South Oxfordshire District Council to include the toilet in their plans, said it would remove some of the stress of going out.

The mum-of-three, whose 14-year-old daughter Tamsin has cerebral palsy, said: “It will be open more often than the one at the Cornerstone so we can go into Didcot and not always be thinking about whether we can get into the toilet.

“Last Easter we tried to go to the cinema but could only go on a Saturday because all the other days the Cornerstone was closed.

“You are constantly having to plan days out around access to a toilet but now we can visit the shops and restaurants and enjoy a little more freedom.”

The full-time carer, who lives in Wantage, has long called for changing places toilets to be made mandatory in large new developments, something that has been backed by Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran.

And last year the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report calling on the Government to consider changing the law.

Mrs England said: “I hope this is a sign of things to come.

“Changing places toilets are still too few and far between but we are slowly moving in the right direction.

“I shouldn’t have to fight for one every time someone wants to build new shops.

“They should just be included automatically in any plans.”

A quarter of a million people need access to changing places toilets in order to take part in day-to-day activities.

Standard accessible toilets are often not suitable because they are too small for carers to fit in as well and do not include changing benches.

South Oxfordshire District Council paid £20,000 to install the new facility as part of the £50million Orchard Centre redevelopment, the first phase of which opened last month.

The council worked with Hammerson to change the design of the toilet area to accommodate the facility and the developer will provide ongoing maintenance of the room.

Situated next to the Boots, River Island and H&M stores, it will be open during shopping hours for people with a special access key.

Tony Harbour, cabinet member for Didcot Garden Town, said, “Didcot continues to be an exciting place to live and work and we are pleased an additional changing places facility will help provide a fully accessible shopping experience for everyone coming into town.”

Thomas Cochrane, development manager at Hammerson said it was committed to ensuring the Orchard Centre is a retail and leisure destination that is ‘accessible to all.

He added: “We are delighted to have helped South Oxfordshire District Council deliver Didcot’s second changing places facility as part of the new Orchard Centre expansion.”