‘Changing Places’ facilities commitment by Mid and East Antrim Council
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has given a commitment to begin providing ‘Changing Places’ for disabled people as funding becomes available.
Last month, Finance Minister Conor Murphy pledged to make ‘Changing Places’ mandatory for new buildings in Northern Ireland.
‘Changing Places’ toilet facilities include changing benches, hoists and space for two carers. The equipment costs approximately £15,000.
The council will be considering the inclusion of this cost during the rates setting process and will explore external funding options.
Currently, the council has no ‘Changing Places’ facilities although there are accessible toilets.
However, ‘Changing Places’ facilities are to be incorporated in the new toilet block plan for Larne Town Park. Read here
These have also been earmarked for the new Ballymena leisure centre and at Larne Leisure Centre, The Amphitheatre, in Carrickfergus, Carnfunnock Country Park and The People’s Park in Ballymena.
Speaking at a meeting of the borough council on Monday evening, Braid DUP Councillor Beth Adger MBE, Disability Champion for Mid and East Antrim, noted that approximately one fifth of people in Northern Ireland have a disability.
She told the meeting: “When we decide to go for out a day’s outing, we take a picnic to the car with family and off we go.
“How different it is for a family of a disabled child or an adult. An outing for them is planned around finding a place where there is a disabled toilet.
“In Northern Ireland, there is 1.4 fully accessible toilets per 100,000 people.
“People with severe disabilities face the option of either staying at home, limiting fluid intake on days out or having to be changed on a toilet floor.
“I propose that MEA takes the lead on this important issue and provide the facility for very special people who should have the same facilities as everyone else.”
Larne Lough Alliance Cllr Danny Donnelly said: “Changing Places facilities are bathrooms for people with complex needs. These make places inclusive to everyone.
“It is great to hear ‘Changing Places’ facilities will be included in the new toilet plan at the Town Park in Larne and the new leisure centre in Ballymena.
“It is very encouraging to hear also that council is investigating the possibility of purchasing a mobile ‘Changing Places’ facility to be used at council events.”
Carrickfergus Alderman Billy Ashe MBE said: “Let’s see if we can be one of the first councils in Northern Ireland to implement this policy.”
Sinn Fein Coast Road Cllr James McKeown said that he welcomed the initiative adding that as someone who looked after a disabled person for 20 years, every journey and outing is planned around toilets.
“This initiative would be very welcome by a large number of citizens in this borough,” he said.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.
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