A group of people are campaigning to bring a public changing facility to Carndonagh.
Mairead McLaughlin, Lorraine Callaghan Simmons, Tricia McKinney, Michael McCartney and Deborah Shiels are working tirelessly in the hope of taking action for their local community.
A changing places toilet facility is different to a standard accessible toilet.
Standard accessible toilets are of little or no benefit to the many people living with a disability.
Changing places have at least a 12 metre squared floor space which is needed for people who might be in a wheelchair and possibly require 1-2 assistants or other equipment.
The public changing facility also has ceiling track hoists that allows full room coverage, a height-adjustable-adult sized changing table, peninsular automatic toilets, appropriate grab rails, screens to promote dignity and hand basins that can be raised and lowered to allow people to wash their hands.
Standard accessible toilets might provide a baby changing bench but once the baby/ small child reaches the weight limit for the bench (generally around one year old) there is no provision for them to be changed.
Sadly, many people have to use the undignified and unhygienic option of changing their loved one on a toilet floor or in the back of a car etc.
For some people, even this is not an option if there is no hoist facility they have to remain in their wheelchair.
Children and adults who have an illness such as MS, Motor Neurone Disease, cancer or people who may have had an accident also require these facilities.
Mairead said in the 2016 census there were 5,269 people with a disability in Inishowen.
“Not only do changing places promote the dignity, comfort, safety and independence of the person requiring the facility but they are also required to ensure that their families and carers are supported and not left with conditions such as back problems as a result of their caring role.
“All too often it is the environment that disables people rather than the condition or diagnosis that they might be living with.
“We are talking about children and adults who may wear continence products and need to be changed on a suitable changing bench.
“We are also talking about children and adults who are fully continent (toilet trained) but rely on a hoist facility and changing bench to be able to use the toilet.
“Without a changing places facility these people cannot go to the toilet.
“This means that they are excluded from living in their own community.
“They cannot travel too far from home in-case they need to use the toilet.
“This restricts them socially if they want to go out and have fun with their friends, partake in any social activities or attend appointments -they are always on a deadline to get home and many do things like cut down on drinks to limit the need to use the toilet.
“This is simply unacceptable and a denial of the most basic human rights,” she said.
Project Changing Places Carndonagh has begun work on an action plan to overcome this.
The group has engaged with some of the potential users and established that there is a huge demand for the facility and the impact that it will have is profound.
However, Mairead said it wasn’t just local people that expressed an interest.
“Such a facility would open up the area as a tourist attraction to the many families that cannot come here at present as there is no public changing places facility available,” she said.
The group has engaged with the 12 other registered public changing places facilities in the country and 6 of the 36 in Northern Ireland.
Out of the 12 in Ireland there are eight in Dublin, one in Wexford, one in Tullamore , one in Meath and one in Limerick.
There are none anywhere near Inishowen.
The project is expected to cost around €15,000.
Potential challenges such as maintaining the facility, response to an alarm system, access to the facility and waste disposal were all discussed and solutions identified.
At the minute the group are seeking a suitable premise in Carndonagh with accessible parking and preferably embedded in an existing organisation such as a public building.
Mairead and the team urges anyone that has a suitable building to please get in touch.
“We are calling on local political leaders to support our campaign as it grows and make this human right reality.
“Let us start small and model change to other areas,” she concluded.
If you are interested in this project in terms of being able to access it, fundraising, providing a space or if you want any further information contact Mairéad on 0860675914.Tags: