CHANGING PLACES IRELAND

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Cormac Cahill, Communications & Information Officer, Inclusion Ireland makes the case for the Changing Places campaign.

Ailis Healy & her mother Ann
This article identifies the Changing Places campaign in the UK.
This campaign has seen the introduction of fully accessible toilet/changing facilities across the UK.
These facilities include a hoist and changing table in addition to a toilet and wash hand basin with adequate space for the user and two helpers. Ireland needs to incorporate this initiative and Inclusion Ireland and the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies is supportive of this initiative.
To-date there have been a number of premises in Ireland that have adapted or developed such facilities at present but there needs to be greater engagement.
Certain requirement are essential to be classed as a Changing Place facility and information is available through Inclusion Ireland.

Without Changing Places toilets, the person with disabilities is put at risk, and families are forced to risk their own health and safety by changing their daughter or son on a toilet floor. This is dangerous, unhygienic and undignified. It is now accepted and expected that everyone has a right to live in the community, to move around within it and access all its facilities. (Changing Places UK website www.changing-places.org)

Changing Places toilets are different to standard disabled toilets; they include extra features such as hoists and changing benches, have enough space and provide a safe and clean environment for the user.

The Changing Places campaign in the UK has helped to transform the lives of persons with disabilities and their families with the introduction of over 750 fully accessible toilet facilities across the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland) since its inception in 2007. The UK Changing Places consortium works together to support the rights of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities to access their community. Consortium members include the Centre for Accessible Environment, PAMIS, Mencap, Nottingham City Council, Dumfries & Galloway Council and the Scottish government. A Changing Places campaign has also been launched in Australia. Sadly, the Republic of Ireland does not currently have any registered Changing Places facilities.

Ann Healy lives in Blessington, Co. Wicklow, and is parent of Ailis, an adult daughter with a disability. Ann explains that standard disabled toilets across Ireland do not currently provide the necessary supports that are suitable for her daughter when she is out socialising in a public place.

‘My daughter, Ailis, like all young women her age, loves nothing better than to go shopping, have a meal and take in a movie. Unfortunately, she can only choose to do one of these things at a time because normal disabled toilet facilities do not cater for her needs—she needs a hoist to use the toilet, so we can only go out for a few hours at a time.’

However, all this could soon be a thing of the past. Inclusion Ireland is hoping to emulate the success of the UK campaign by facilitating a Changing Places Ireland website in early 2015.

The Changing Places Ireland website will be fully map-based and will provide users with information on where toilets are, how they can be accessed and when the facilities are available. Inclusion Ireland has established a Changing Places Ireland working group. The group includes Inclusion Ireland staff members Cormac Cahill and Fiona Duignan, Director Lorraine Dempsey, Ann Healy (parent) and Vicki Casserly (South Dublin County Councillor). The working group held its first meetings in November and December 2014. It will focus on ensuring that Changing Places facilities in Ireland become the norm, rather than the exception, in the years ahead.

Ms Healy believes that their campaign will be a life-changer for many families. ‘A few years ago, when I came across a website www.changing-places.org.uk – which lists more than 750 toilet facilities in the UK which have both a hoist and a changing table, I realised that life didn’t have to be like that,’ she said. ‘Changing Places toilets also cater for people who currently have to suffer the indignity of having to be changed on toilet floors because they need an adult height-adjustable changing bench.’

John Morgan, a wheelchair user from Dundalk, believes that a lack of truly accessible toilets can prevent people with a disability having an active social life and the current accessible toilets in his home town need some urgent attention: ‘The town hall in Dundalk went through major renovations during the Celtic Tiger years and it has three so-called accessible toilets, but they are totally inaccessible,’ he said. ‘I raised this matter with the town clerk, as going to the toilet is the most basic need for everyone—whether they have a disability or not. I have explained to him that if I can’t go to the toilet, I can’t go to a show in the town hall. It’s as simple as that.’

The new Changing Places Ireland website is a work-in-progress, but once it is launched it will be fully map-based and compatible with tablets and smart phones, so persons with disabilities, parents and carers can access the information when they are away from their home computer or laptop. A number of facilities/premises that do not meet all the criteria, but still want to become involved in the initiative, will be included in a section on step-down facilities. They will be encouraged to take the extra actions necessary to ensure that they have the full facilities in the future.

The Federation of Voluntary Bodies has also been heavily involved in the new campaign by asking their members to publicise their facilities for the purpose of the website. Inclusion Ireland has also been in touch with Mencap (who are one of the main partners in the Changing Places UK, and have been the driving force behind Changing Places facilities) to act as a sounding board for the campaign in this country.

Inclusion Ireland and the Changing Places Ireland working group believe that the lack of such quality and accessible facilities across Ireland is a societal issue and not just a disability issue.

They are looking to create a Changing Places Ireland alliance of organisations across the spectrum that they believe will drive this campaign forward and create more awareness in the public of the pressing need for these facilities.

Ms Healy hopes that the Changing Places Ireland campaign will ensure that top-class toilet facilities will be installed many more public places across Ireland, so that persons with disabilities can enjoy an active social life. ‘The aim of the campaign is to ensure that Changing Places facilities will become the norm in places that are used by the public, such as shopping centres, airports, train and bus stations, visitor centres, galleries and hospitals etc.—so that people like Ailis can enjoy a fuller life,’ she said. ‘I was delighted when I raised it with Inclusion Ireland and they agreed to develop their own campaign to highlight the pressing need for these facilities here in Ireland. The Federation of Voluntary Bodies have also been very supportive and some member organisations are making their facilities available on the website (including KARE Local Services in Newbridge, Naas and Blessington; the Delta Centre in Carlow; and Deans Gate Day Service in Kilkenny).’ Ms Healy added: ‘There is also a new changing place in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and one planned for the National Gallery in Dublin. Hopefully, there may be others around the country which will become known when the new Changing Place Ireland website gets off the ground in early 2015.’

Ms Healy calls on people from around Ireland to get behind the campaign and to raise awareness of Changing Places Ireland at local level. ‘People who are interested in helping to promote the campaign can help by raising awareness locally with county management, local politicians and planners to ensure that new public buildings or those that are being refurbished will include a changing place in their plans.’ Changing Places Ireland has launched a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ChangingPlacesIreland) and parents, individuals and organisations are encouraged to share and like posts and get involved in the campaign.

CHANGING PLACES CRITERIA

■  Height adjustable, adult sized changing bench
■  Ceiling track hoist system
■  Adequate space for the disabled person and up to two assistants
■  Centrally located toilet with space both sides for assistants
■  Privacy screen
■  Wide paper roll
■  Large waste disposal bin
■  Washbasin, preferably height adjustable

THE INFORMATION REQUIRED

■  Name of building
■  Address
■  Telephone number
■  Website
■  Facility Details
■  Type of venue
■  How to gain access
■  Opening hours
■  Changing Bench
■  Hoist
■  Toilet
■  Who can use the toilet?

Further Information

(Readers can contact Cormac regarding the Changing Places campaign on cormac@inclusionireland.ie or (01) 8559891.)

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