My family think I’m weird. They’re probably right. You see, I have an obsession with good accessible bathroom facilities but my obsession comes from being enlightened in the early years of launching Have Wheelchair Will Travel.
I should start at the beginning and tell you that we visited a Changing Places bathroom at Bankstown City Gardens the other day. I was curious to see what a fully accessible adult bathroom facility looks like. My interest stems from a meeting I had with a mother several years ago. We were put in touch by a mutual contact and she wanted as much information as possible about a trip to the US. It was no ordinary trip as the lady was facing a terminal diagnosis of cancer and the family trip to the US was all about making memories. I was keen to share as much information as possible to make their trip smooth and memorable. However, she asked a question for which I had no answer. She told me her teenager was incontinent and asked how she should manage changes when they were travelling. It had never occurred to me that this was something people had to deal with. I felt so ignorant and once she described the distress of changing someone on public toilet floors I spent ages trying to think of how people could avoid it. I had no clue because even when I thought about something that was portable I realised that without a hoist people wouldn’t be able to safely lift a person to and from the wheelchair.
The meeting made me more aware and I noticed online petitions for adult size change facilities. There was an online community pushing for a facility called Changing Places. When I saw the size of the bathrooms and read about the cost I couldn’t imagine, despite the need for it, the idea catching on. Most councils and government organisations tend to do the minimum required because money never stretches far enough.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Thankfully there have been many Changing Places facilities built and where these exist people can take their loved one out for a day without the worry about how to change them or even how to use a toilet when in public.
Although I’d read about Changing Places I wanted to see one to see how it helps people. So, that’s why we made the trip to inspect a bathroom in a park. Still a little unusual but it comes from a good place. I hate the thought of people being restricted in life by something that most of us take for granted, the ability to use a bathroom with dignity.
BJ doesn’t need a Changing Places restroom and he’s also never used a hoist so it was completely new to me. The bathroom space was huge and included a toilet with grab bars, adult size change table and shower facility. You do need to take your own sling for this facility but I believe some facilities provide a sling. There are detailed instructions on how to use the hoist and change table in the bathroom.
A ceiling hoist allows a user to move from their wheelchair to the change table, shower or toilet as it moves throughout the space.
The shower curtain rail folds out of the way allowing entry to the space with the hoist.
The toilet has grab rails on either side, a backrest and the hoist reaches this area too.
The change table is large with paper towel for visitors to use, for hygiene purposes, on the change table.
The change table is height adjustable.
A side rail folds up to ensure the safety of the person using the table.
When not in use the change table folds out of the way to maximise room in the space.
A Touched by Olivia accessible and inclusive playspace is scheduled to be built in this park in 2017. Combined with the Changing Places facility, it’s sure to become a popular park with such accessible inclusions.
At the moment the park only has a birds nest swing and picnic shelters but there is lots of space for the playground coming. I look forward to returning to review the new playground when it is built later this year.
There are 2 disabled parking spaces and ramp access to the park.
Along with the Changing Places restroom there is another regular accessible bathroom and ambulant bathroom.
A MLAK key is required for the Changing Places restroom. You can read more about where to get a MLAK Key here.
You can read more about Changing Places Australia here.
If you are travelling overseas and would like to check the availability of a Changing Places facility at an airport or other attraction, take a look at this locator.
Parks Victoria have once again shown that they are trying to make Victoria as inclusive and accessible as possible by putting a Changing Places bathroom facility at Eagle Skylift Arthurs Seat which I recently reviewed here.
We have a great blog with tips regarding travel and incontinence here.
Congratulations to Bankstown Council on embracing Changing Places. At a cost of $315,000 to build the facility we understand that there is a great commitment to providing a facility which is accessible and inclusive to all.
So my obsession with accessible bathrooms may make me weird in my family’s eyes but you have to admit the Changing Places bathrooms aren’t your regular facility. As I told AJ, it has all the bells and whistles!