‘Her life is very limited’: Call for improvement to disabled toilets
Campaigner urge wider use of ‘changing places’ for those with mobility problems
There are just seven ‘changing places’ in Ireland, only one of which is outside Dublin. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images
The mother of an adult with a disability has told how her daughter cannot fully participate in life due to a dearth of suitable toilet facilities.
Ann Healy, who described at times having to change her daughter “on dirty toilet floors”, spoke at the start of a campaign for better toilet facilities for people with mobility issues.
Such facilities would include not only grab rails by the toilet in a slightly larger room, but also a hoist, changing bed and height-adjustable, power-assisted wash basins. Known as changing places, more than 1,000 are provided in the UK, with 167 in Scotland. There are just seven in Ireland, only one of which is outside Dublin.
“Some people like my daughter Ailís cannot use the usual disabled toilets,” said Ms Healy. “People think if you have a disability and there’s a disabled toilet it’s accessible to everyone.
“Ailís needs a hoist to transfer from her chair. The lack of these places means her life is very limited. She can only go out for a few hours at a time because she has to get back to use the loo. So she can’t do the normal things that people take for granted, like going for lunch, going to the cinema, going to a concert. She has to choose one thing and get out and get back.”
She said she had been “browsing the internet” a few years ago and came across “changing places” in Britain.
“Before that I took for granted the limitations and assumed that was just the way life was going to be. When I saw the changing places in the UK I thought ‘Why not here?’”
She contacted the Irish Wheelchair Association and Inclusion Ireland and since then a Changing Places working group had been established, with the Disability Federation of Ireland. It is campaigning to have a changing place in all publicly accessible buildings, including shopping centres, concert venues, cinemas and any government building.
The campaign is also calling for Government to make it mandatory that changing places be included in all public places, in the future.
Though the numbers of those who would benefit from such facilities is unknown, it is thought to be in the thousands, including people with spina bifida, people who have had strokes, older people with mobility issues and anyone with incontinence issues.
There are changing places in Trinity College, Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin Airport, the National Gallery, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and Ikea in Dublin, and, at The Lime Tree Theatre at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.