Many of you will be familiar with Firefly Products, the amazing Upsee, the Scooot seat, the Playpak and the GoTo seat.

These products are all about Family Participation, making sure that children with special needs get the same opportunities to participate in family fun and family life as their siblings, cousins and friends.

Every family that took part in trialing Firefly products told us about the difference a Firefly product was making to their family life.

The Smyths were one of those families, trialing both the Upsee and the GoTo seat. They said it was the simple things that made a difference - being able to walk on a beach, eat out at a cafe and having a safe seating arrangement on a family holiday.

Claire Smyth is mum to Daniel, who is 6 and had profound and multiple learning difficulties said,

‘The products Firefly create make such a difference to our life and have allowed us to do things with Daniel that we’d never thought possible.

They are doing great things for families like ours, but there’s so much more other companies could do to help customers whose kids have special needs.

Toilets and changing facilities are a big problem for those families, but I don’t think business owners realise how simple it can be to make them accessible and enable true family participation for families with children who have special needs.’

The Firefly Community asked, Claire to provide some evidence about the difficulties families like hers face on a day out.

In this interview you will find out how the Space to Change campaign came about, how you can support us and make a difference in your local area. It’s as simple sending an email…

​Where did you start?

Well I put together a very short survey using the online tool Monkey Survey, and with the help of some high-profile bloggers and Facebook groups I belonged to we shared the link. Within a very short space of time we had over 2,000 respondents and the results were exactly what I expected them to be.

What were the results?

In a nutshell, changing your disabled child is a major problem on a family day out.

97% of families reported facing difficulties, 86% told us they’d had to leave a venue earlier than planned because of poor changing facilities, families said they’d had to change their child in public, in their car and on a bare floor.

But for businesses I think one of the most important things that came out of the survey was that 99% of families said they were more likely to visit a venue if it had better changing facilities.

So what next?

Well from the results and suggestions made by other parents, we began to put together a few ideas. What came across strongly was having enough private and clean space to change your child. So that’s how we got the name, Space to Change.

I worked with Clos-o-Mat the largest provider of toilet solutions for disabled and elderly people in and out of the home and other more experienced accessible toilet campaigners to come up with a 'footprint' for a toilet facilty that would include a bench and a hoist. 

Were you aware of the Changing Places campaign?

Yes, I was aware of the Changing Places campaign. I have used a Changing Place facility once before and it was amazing, it’s a very large room with a hoist, height adjustable changing bench, shower and toilet with right and left transfer, it meets the needs of children and adults with toileting needs.

It would be brilliant if every venue had a Changing Place facility, but with the best will in the world some exisitng venues simply wouldn’t have the space or money to make this kind of investment but this doesn’t mean that they can’t do something that would make a difference for families with disabled family members. That is hopefully what Space to Change offers.

How did you get started?

I picked my favourite venues, the ones we visit regularly as a family and emailed them or approached the manager to make them aware of that their current toilet facilties don't meet the needs of adults and older children who need lifted and laid on a flat surface to meet their toileting needs. I have told them about Changing Places toilets and the Space to Change option.

How does the Campaign work?

We need Supporters and Champions. We need people to join the Firefly Community, as we see these numbers growing it adds strength to our campaign when any Champion approaches a business.

A Champion is someone who goes to local venues and asks them to consider improving their toilet facilties either by installing the preferred Changing Places toilet or at least Space to Change if space is an issue for that venue.

To find out more about becoming a Champion email [email protected]

Who can be a Champion?

Anyone at all, it doesn’t have to just be mums and dads of kids with special needs. It can be granny and grandas, aunts, uncles, business owners absolutely anyone who wants to make a difference for people with disabilities.

Is it hard work being a Champion?

Absolutely not, it takes a couple of minutes just to ask when you are at a venue, send a quick email or pick up the phone. All the information is on the Firefly Community so you can show a business owner on your phone while you are there or send them through the links by email. 

Why would a business want to get involved?

I think that’ll be a whole other blog post but basically it makes good business sense to want to encourage more customers and enable those customers to stay longer. We plan our days out around Daniel, we go to the places that meet his needs: good wheelchair access, space around displays/wide aisles, helpful staff and good changing facilities play a really vital role.

If Daniel needs changed during a day out and the venue can’t meet our needs we cut short our day and leave, possibly before we’ve bought lunch, been tortured into buying treats for our other son and basically spent as much money as we’d planned to.

We’re also unlikely to go back. The special needs community is a close knit one - we rely on each others recommendations for good places to go.

Our children can often be unwell so on good days we want to make sure we can make the most of them and not have them spoiled unnecessarily.

What are your aspirations for the campaign?

That Space to Change will go global. Anywhere you travel in the world you will be able to look up an App on your phone and find a venue that provides Space to Change making any day out fun and most importantly stress-free.

But in the short term I’ll continue working on the places that I visit on a regular basis.

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