Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) and Inclusion Ireland, alongside people with disabilities and their families came together to launch the Changing Places Ireland Campaign in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) on Tuesday, 1st May 2018. Changing Places toilet facilities have proved to be a life –changer for thousands of people and have saved people who have a significant disability from the indignity of having to use toilet facilities that are not suitable to meet their needs.
The Changing Places Ireland Campaign is encouraging businesses, organisations and public bodies to build and fund more of these facilities. Currently, Changing Places toilet facilities are available in; Aras an Uachtaráin, Dublin Airport, Trinity College Dublin, the National Gallery, Irish Human Rights Commission, IKEA Ballymun and the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick.
Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran joined the Changing Places Working Group to launch the campaign in Ireland:
I am delighted to be associated with this initiative which aims to provide those with disabilities easier access to changing place facilities. The OPW has participated in this initiative and has provided a Changing Place facility in Áras an Uachtaráin. The OPW are currently carrying out appraisals at our heritage sites with viable solutions such as mobile units and permanent structures being considered.
I am a long-term proponent of enhanced services and facilities for those with disabilities. Earlier this year I announced that persons with disabilities and their carers would be able to visit OPW managed paid visitor heritage sites for free. With effect from today, this initiative becomes operational and I hope that many more persons will come to visit and enjoy some of our wonderful cultural assets.
Changing Places facilities need to meet a certain standard to be registered on the official Changing Places Ireland website www.changingplaces.ie which was also launched at the event. The website will be a valuable resource and tool for people with disabilities and their families, businesses, organisations and tourists visiting Ireland.
Paddy Connolly, CEO of Inclusion Ireland explained:
Changing Places promote dignity, social inclusion and are crucial to achieving a good life in the community and this new website will serve as a useful resource for people to start their very own local campaign. Inclusion Ireland strongly encourages people who are interested in taking action to visit changingplaces.ie to get information that will help them to push for a society that recognises persons with disabilities as equals.
Changing Places facilities include; a centrally located toilet with adequate space both sides for transfers/assistants, adequate place for a wheelchair user and at least two assistants, a height-adjustable adult size changing bench and a full room coverage ceiling track hoist system.
Rosarie Davy, Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), National Access Advisory Service highlighted the importance of Changing Places facilities during the launch:
We work with companies, outdoor venues, sports facilities and public sector bodies advising and developing accessibility guidelines for public spaces. The Changing Places Campaign is a significant development which aims to enhance and grow opportunities for people with disabilities to become active participants in their local towns and communities and to have equal opportunities to enjoy social, educational and employment prospects.”
Áine O’Sullivan, from DFI reminded those in attendance of the significant difference the Changing Places facilities can bring to the lives of people with disabilities and their families:
“There are over 1000 Changing Places Facilities in the UK and Northern Ireland so we have a lot of catching up to do! In reality, Changing Places mean people with disabilities can take opportunities to work, study and socialise without worrying about how long it will be before they can use the bathroom again. We’re delighted to see Wicklow and Wexford County council have started the ball rolling and are installing changing places facilities in their counties. The ultimate aim is to have these facilities in the four corners of Ireland.