A KILDARE mother is hoping to change the State’s building regulations concerning toilet and changing facilities for the profoundly disabled after her lobby group was successful in getting the first such facility installed in an Irish shopping centre.
After the tireless work of Aisling McNiffe, a mother of two from Ardclough, Dundrum Town Centre has become the first shopping centre in Ireland to register a ‘Changing Places’ facility, following a €120,000 investment and the official opening of the new, fully accessible toilets.
However, Ms McNiffe was quick to point out that this massive investment in the south Dublin retail centre covered much more than the requirement her group was lobbying for, and that the normal conversion costs required to get a disabled toilet kitted out to ‘Changing Places’ standards is almost a tenth of this, around €15,000.
The new facility is different to standard accessible toilets and designed to enhance the health, safety, comfort and dignity of someone who may need extra support and additional equipment during personal care tasks, as well as offering added safety and support features for assistants.
It includes a ceiling track hoist system, a height-adjustable adult-sized changing bench, a privacy screen, a centrally located toilet with adequate space on both sides for the user and two assistants, wide paper roll, a large waste disposal bin and a washbasin.
Aisling’s group is made up of parents with profoundly disabled adults who require such assistance, and with a gap in building regulations currently not mandating public buildings to provide facilities to this standard, there are only nine such ‘Changing Places’ in the State, nearly all in Dublin.
Ms McNiffe mentioned another huge shopping centre in the capital who told her “we don’t have to do it” when she approached them in an effort to make planning a day out easier.
“The regulations which govern this are absolutely useless, they stop you accessing life,” she pointed out, concerning the difficulties she has in bringing out her 14-year-old son Jack.
“In the UK there are over a 1,000 such facilities, and we have only nine. They’re ahead of the game and we need to catch up,” she said.
She explained that Áras an Úchtarain was the first to install such a facility in the State, and that Naas Library will be the 10th, as the Changing Places upgrade is to be included in their current revamp .
Aisling explained that though there was one in Dublin Airport “we need one airside as well”.
There are also fully inclusive toilet and changing facilities at IKEA, the National Gallery, the Equality Commission, and Trinity College.
“When you see people making the effort it’s really appreciated,” said Aisling.
“We should all have the same opportunities to go to the cinema or the theatre, just to be able to go out and not have to plan or worry about,” she added.
“I’d love to see them in Kildare Village, or the Whitewater or Liffey Valley. Give us more of a choice,” she continued.
She also wanted to praise the work of her co-campaigner Ann Healy from Blessington who was central in the work to get the Dundrum facility up and running.
To find out more about Changing Places please visit: https://changingplaces.ie/find-changingplaces/