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Changing Places can change the face of our community, says Cllr Paddy McQuillan

Paddy McQuillan Changing Places
Paddy McQuillan has urged Louth County Council to provide a Changing Places facility in Drogheda. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Louth County Council say they will not be facilitating a brand new Changing Places toilet facility for people with severe disabilities at their new €12 Fair Street Council offices.

Responding to a motion tabled by Independent councillor for Drogheda Paddy McQuillan during Monday’s Drogheda Borough Council meeting, the local authority said they had no plans to provide major public toilet facilities at the office development.

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Cllr McQuillan’s motion read, “That this council, as part of the €12m restoration works on the Fair Street council offices, commits to the installation of a Changing Places Ireland facility in its restoration.

“As it stands, the current standards of disabled toilets in the town do not meet the needs of all people with disabilities. This facility would ensure that those with specific needs are not excluded from participating in social, cultural and economic activities. I would also encourage the council to work with Disability Louth to ensure the facility meets the needs of the disability community.”

Whilst receiving widespread support from his fellow councillors, including Mayor Kevin Callan, Pio Smith, Joanna Byrne and Michelle Hall. “Maybe the plans could be reviewed. It is something that’s needed,” Cllr Smith said.

“It is about understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society. People with specific physical and intellectual needs require specific
facilities to meet their needs to enable them to participate in our community to their fullest potential,” Cllr McQuillan told the meeting.

“People need this facility. Days out for these communities are socially, emotionally and mentally beneficial. We have a chance to change the face of our community here. We have a chance to lay down a marker for all other councils in the country.

“We have a chance here in Louth to not only state that we are disability inclusive, but show the proof. We have a chance to clearly state that our citizens with specific disability needs do not have to leave our town on days out just to avail of these facilities.

“Not only is it inclusive but it’s financially beneficial. It’s 2020 and people are having to change their loved ones on the floor of a toilet. We as a council should ensure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities.

“This is the year 2020. People should not have to change their loved ones on the floors of public toilets. I would like to see this included in the Fair Street restoration or if not any vacant council owned building in the town centre should be considered for it,” he concluded.

Cllr McQuillan said that the provision of a Changing Places facility would benefit hundreds of families in the area and would allow users of services from the Irish Wheelchair Association and St Johns to stay local for their trips away, instead of having to arrange their trip around the proximity to a Changing Places facility for their users.

There are currently only 14 Changing Places toilet facilities nationwide – with eight of them in Dublin. The nearest is at the IKEA furniture store in Dublin. In a letter written to Cllr McQuillan from the IWA in Drogheda, it was revealed that IWA service users on a trip to anywhere in the north east must make a stop at the IKEA store in Ballymun to avail of the Changing Places toilet.

The letter, seen by LouthNow.ie, reveals that the IWA use the locations of Changing Places toilets as a ‘marker’ when planning their trips, their locations essentially restricting the choice of destination to within a reasonable distance.

Changing Places are different from standard disabled toilets in that they have extra space and facilities like a hoist and a changing bench. Without these specialist facilities, many carers are left having to change their loved ones on the floors of public toilets.

It is estimated it costs €15,000 to install Changing Places equipment in a specially designed bathroom. The Changing Places Ireland have lobbied the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to grant aid to local authorities and voluntary organisations to install Changing Places facilities in every county.

The Dundalk Sports Centre, in Dundalk has all the features of a Changing Places, however their room does not meet the required size of a Changing Places which is 12m. It is 10.5m.

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