CastleCourt has become the first shopping centre in Northern Ireland to have a Changing Places facility installed, and is the first facility of its kind in Belfast City Centre.
The Changing Places Consortium has welcomed the new, fully accessible toilet facilities for people with profound disabilities that have been installed at the centre.
The new toilets, which represent a significant investment by the owners are wheelchair accessible and offer a height-adjustable adult-sized changing bench, a ceiling track hoist, and plenty of space for carers.
It is hoped the addition will significantly help people with disabilities and their carers to be able to get out more around Belfast City Centre and in CastleCourt with the confidence that there are adequate toilet facilities nearby.
According to Muscular Dystrophy UK and the Changing Places Consortium, over a quarter of a million people with severe disabilities need access to Changing Places facilities. These toilets provide a safe and clean environment for users to use the toilet in a safe, clean and dignified manner.
Without Changing Places toilets, many thousands of disabled people, their families and carers, are denied equal access to the services that most people take for granted.
Paul McMahon, Centre Director for CastleCourt said:
“The new Changing Places facilities are an important addition to CastleCourt. Part of our centre’s commitment is to be accessible to everyone and the Changing Place facility is a massive part of that commitment.
“We have listened to feedback from customers and fully understand that standard disabled toilets do not meet the needs of all people with a disability. We’re delighted to be able to offer this new facility and hope it will have a positive impact on many people with disabilities, their family and carers.”
Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information at Muscular Dystrophy UK said:
“Muscular Dystrophy UK and the Changing Places Consortium are delighted that the CastleCourt shopping centre has made its facilities accessible to profoundly disabled people. Without access to Changing Places toilets, over a quarter of a million people who have severe disabilities are faced with a choice of not going out, or being changed on a toilet floor.
“Seeing a Changing Places toilet sign shows that a shopping centre, airport or tourist attraction is fully accessible for a disabled person. We hope others will follow CastleCourt’s lead, so we can see many more of these important signs going up all over the UK.
“By building more Changing Places toilets, we can help to tackle the exclusion many disabled people face.”
Michaela Hollywood, user of the Changing Room facilities and a Trailblazers Campaign Officer with Muscular Dystrophy UK spoke of the new facilities at CastleCourt:
“I’m over the moon that CastleCourt is home to the first Changing Places in a shopping centre in Northern Ireland and the first for shoppers in Belfast City Centre. I’m unable to use any toilet which doesn’t have a hoist and bench. I frequently shop in CastleCourt which is a great location during these winter months. Until now, I couldn’t spend a penny when out shopping – so I had to restrict my fluid intake, and this impacts on my enjoyment of a day out with family.”
To be registered as a Changing Places toilet it must include the right equipment; offer enough space; and provide a safe and clean environment.
It is estimated that there are around 250,000 people in the UK who cannot use standard accessible toilets. This includes people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.