Flashback to 2019 when Annette Monaghan and her son Jamie were joined by Cllr. Paddy McQuillan as they protested at the lack of a "Changing Places" toilet anywhere in Drogheda.
It’s always good to end the week with a good news story and the announcement today by Minister of State Peter Burke that he has signed new regulations requiring special needs "changing places" toilet to be included in schools, healthcare facilities, shopping centres and hotels, certainly comes into that category.
Changing places toilets enable people with complex care needs to take part in everyday activities by offering larger and better equipped facilities that address the needs of people for whom current accessible toilets are inadequate.
These facilities open up activities such as travel, shopping, family days out or attending a sporting event and, according to today’s announcement, up to 80 extra changing places toilets could be provided nationwide each year in locations such as shopping centres, museums, galleries, cinemas, hotels, roadside service stations and heritage sites. Currently there are only 19 in the whole country.
Togher woman Annette Monaghan has been campaigning for such facilities to be installed in public places in Drogheda and beyond since 2016. Today’s announcement, on the day before International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2022, came as music to her ears.
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Annette’s 24 year-old son Jamie is a big soccer fan – he supports Liverpool – and he is also severely physically disabled.
It was while travelling through Manchester Airport bringing Jamie home from a match that Annette first came across a changing places toilet. She was amazed and swore there and then that she wold not rest until they were introduced in Drogheda and Ireland generally.
Today’s announcement comes as a result of consultations undertaken during the year on a proposed amendment to the Building Regulations to make provision for a changing places.
Asked for her reaction to the announcement, Annette told Drogheda Life that she was “absolutely thrilled” at the positive and prompt response from Minister Peter Burke.
“This will mean families like mine across the country will be able to socialise, work and go on outings or attend an event knowing that an accessible specialised bathroom is available” she said.
“I welcome this new regulation and can't wait to see them in my hometown. I'd like to thank everyone that supported, campaigned and emailed the Minister to ensure an inclusive society for everyone.”
She also expressed “Huge thanks” to the ‘Changing Places for Drogheda and Beyond Committee’ for their dedication to the disabled community here in Louth and having their voices heard.
Local Councillor Paddy McQuillan, who has been supporting the campaign since 2018, said that he too was delighted with today’s announcement
“The lack of these facilities excludes people with specific needs from participating in social, cultural and economic activities. This news will come as comfort to families that care for loved ones who require these facilities in our communities.
“Working as a carer in the disability sector and a member of the Changing Places committee, I know how important changing places facilities are to the individuals that need them. This is a modern society and we should be providing for the most vulnerable members of our society.
I would like to thank Minister Burke for the initiative that he has shown on this most important issue, it will greatly enhance the lives of many people in our community and beyond. Common Sense Prevails.”
Minister Burke said: “I am delighted to be signing these regulation, making this requirement a reality, and supporting the Government’s commitment on advancing the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.”