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Monday, 16th November 2020

Struggle for disabled access in Drogheda continues

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A typical Changing Place toilet costs between €15,000 and €20,000 to install but allows disabled people some level of dignity and means they can get out and about away from their homes.

The struggle to achieve universal access for all physically disabled people to all public facilities in Drogheda has been a long drawn-out affair and it is far from over yet.

Togher  woman Annette Monaghan, whose son Jamie is severely disabled, has been campaigning for years for a special Changing Places toilet to be installed in Drogheda for years and in June last year the cause was taken up by Councillor Paddy McQuillan.

But when McQuillan raised the issue at a Borough District meeting in September asking for such a facility be included in the Council’s plans for the €12 million restoration of the new Council Offices in Fair Street, the idea was given short shrift by officials despite it being unanimously supported by Councillors.

Today the debate moved on a step when, at the Louth County Council monthly meeting, a motion from Councillor Declan Power was passed calling on the Council to write to Minster for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien seeking a change the Irish Building Regulations to make it mandatory for new public buildings to include Changing Place Toilet Facilities.

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The Clogherhead based Councillor, who was instrumental in getting a Changing Place toilet facility installed at DkIT last month, was supported by Cllrs. Maeve Yore, Paddy Mc Quillan and Hugh Conlon.

Changing Place Toilet Facilities are different from standard disabled toilets because they include additional equipment such as a hoist and a changing bench with amble space for a carer.

Current building regulations in Ireland require standard disabled toilets in public buildings but not the provision of Changing Place Toilet Facilities.

Councillor Power pointed out that, with just 15 Changing Place Toilet Facilities in the country, Ireland is well behind the UK which has over 1,400 and Northern Ireland with over 40.

“The lack of changing place toilet facilities restricts families caring for loved ones with disabilities as to what they can do, where they can go and often have no choice but to stay close to home” Power said.

“Ireland is seriously failing the disability community by failing to provide adequate toilet facilities and additional supports for their carers of which there are over 200,000 in this Country.

Referring to the reluctance by Louth County Council to consider siting a Changing Place Toilet in their €12m new offices in Fair Street, Councillor Power said:

“I am sure a skilled architect worth his salt would be well qualified to squeeze in the adequate space required to get this done. The cost of the bells and whistles to make up a changing room toilet facility would be in the region of €15,000.

“Perhaps, the Council would re-consider the proposal, and include such a necessity in the Fair Street development and demonstrate leadership that this Council continues to commit to improving the quality of life for all citizens in this County regardless of ability or disability.”

“… unless building regulations are changed in this Country, new public building developments will, apart from standard disabled toilets, not be obliged to install Changing Place Toilet Facilities.”

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