Date: 29 Jan 2024
Belfast City Council is seeking feedback on its Changing Places toilets draft policy for the city.
The proposed policy has been published on the council website with a survey on the ‘Your say Belfast’ platform which is open for 12 weeks.
Changing Places are specialised toilet facilities which make public places and spaces accessible and inclusive for everyone, including children, adults and older people with complex needs or mobility issues.
They provide specific equipment including a height adjustable adult-sized changing table, a tracking hoist system and adequate space for a disabled person and up to two carers as well as a non-slip floor.
Councillor Ross McMullan, Chair of the council’s Members Disability Group, had brought forward a motion calling for a Changing Places toilets policy for the Council.
Councillor McMullan said: “Council has a commitment, through the city’s community plan, Belfast Agenda, to deliver an accessible city for all and recognises the importance of Changing Places toilets in delivering our vision of this.
“The provision of Changing Places toilets is a fundamental pillar of the right for everyone to fully participate in society. However, the current lack of provision of Changing Places toilets means that right remains unrealised by many disabled people.
“Our Changing Places toilets draft policy sets out council’s proposed approach and commitment to providing these specialised facilities in public places within its estate and across the city demonstrating too our commitment to providing equality of opportunity for people with disabilities.
“We welcome feedback on our draft policy which is on our website and on the Your say Belfast platform.”
Gerard Mullan, member of the council’s Disability Advisory Panel, said: “People with profound and multiple learning disabilities as well as other disabilities that severely limit mobility cannot use standard accessible/disabled toilets. They may be limited in their own mobility so need specialised equipment to help them or may need support from one or two carers to use a toilet.
“Changing Places toilet facilities are therefore so important for people with complex care needs, to take part in everyday activities like travel. shopping, family days out or attending events. The council’s Changing Places toilets policy is very much to be welcomed.”
A standard-sized Changing Places toilet facility is a room with a floor area of 12m² (3m wide and 4m long, with a ceiling height of 2.4m). A room of 3m x 4m gives a rectangular space to allow users and carers to move between each piece of equipment in the toilet.
The draft policy sets out a proposed approach to include a Changing Places toilet facility in every new large council building development with a capacity of 350 people or more, in accordance with building regulations.
Council will also strive to include Changing Places facilities when extending or extensively refurbishing an existing council-owned building, where it is reasonable to do so and subject to resources and design requirements.
When organising a large public event, Council will consider if it can take place at a venue that already has a Changing Places facility or include a mobile/portable facility, if a permanent Changing Places toilet is not available.
The draft policy will include a commitment to require organisers of large-scale public events on council property (for example, concerts and festivals, which need a licence from Council) to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that customers have access to either a fixed or portable Changing Places unit as part of the delivery of the event.
Council currently has a number of Changing Places facilities at its venues.
These are at the following locations - City Hall, Belfast Zoo, Waterfront Hall, Andersonstown Leisure Centre and Spa, Olympia Leisure Centre, Lisnasharragh Leisure Centre, Brook Leisure Centre, Templemore Baths and Girdwood Community Hub.
A Changing Places toilet facility is included in the new Black Mountain Shared Space Project building which is due to be completed later this year.
As part of the council’s current pre-planning public consultation on proposals to transform Waterworks Park and Alexandra Park, Changing Places facilities are proposed for both parks.