IMPROVED toilet and changing facilities for people with disabilities are to be a priority for Mid and East Antrim Council, it has emerged.
Local councillor Beth Adger has stressed the importance of what are known as ‘Changing Places’.
Councillor Adger, who is the Council’s Mental Health Champion, said: “When we decide to go for a day’s outing, we pack a picnic into the car with family and off we go. How different it is for a family with a disabled child or adult.
“An outing for them has to be planned around finding a place with a disabled toilet. As a matter of interest to everyone in Northern Ireland, there is only 1.4 accessible toilet per 100,000 people.
“We have made a lot of changes but there is a lot more to be done, and I welcome Council taking a lead on this important issue by pledging to provide the best facilities for everyone and every ability within our borough.”
Councillors agreed that the issue of funding for the future provision of Changing Places facilities within Council buildings be further explored with the Finance Minister.
Changing Places facilities – which are toilets equipped with a changing bench, hoist, privacy screen and space for two carers – are to be made mandatory for new buildings in Northern Ireland, Minister Conor Murphy recently said.
When they open in April 2021, the new Larne Town Park toilets will be the Council’s first Changing Places facility in the borough.
The proposed new £25 million leisure centre for Ballymena at the former St Patrick’s Barracks site will also feature Changing Places facilities.
When funding becomes available, Council will make applications for similar facilities to be installed at The People’s Park, Carnfunnock Country Park and at Larne and Carrickfergus Leisure Centres,
At the October meeting of the full council, councillors agreed that Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy, writes again to the Finance Minister to request that the funding criteria and a budget are confirmed as soon as possible.
Ms Donaghy is the SOLACE representative on the Equality & Diversity Group of the Local Government Staff Commission, as well as being the Disability Champion for Local Government and was instrumental in developing Council’s Disability Action Plan.