Speaking at the recent monthly meeting of the Athlone Moate Municipal District, Fianna Fáil Councillor, Frankie Keena expressed his gratitude to Westmeath County Council Director of Services, Barry Kehoe, for his positive engagement pertaining to the installation of a changing places toilet facility in the Athlone civic offices.
“Since I last raised a motion on the need to provide a changing places toilet facility in Athlone Civic Offices, I wish to express my gratitude to our Director of Services, Barry Kehoe, for his positive engagement and for meeting with a deputation from Athlone Access Awareness Group to discuss options in this matter.
“In order to now make this proposal become a reality I am now again raising this motion here today in order to identify and resolve any difficulties that may be hindering the delivery of this very important public facility,” Cllr Keena stated.
Cllr Keena stressed that the existing standard of accessible disabled toilets were not of the quality expected and hence the urgent need to provide such a changing places facility.
“I need to be very strong in stating that standard disabled assessible toilets do not meet the needs of all people with disabilities as some need extra facilities to allow them to use the toilet with dignity in a safe and hygienic way.
“A changing places toilet facility will cater for persons with intellectual disabilities and severe physical disabilities, including those people who suffer from advanced multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease.
“For those of you who are not aware, a changing places toilet facility differs from mainstream accessible toilets as it is much larger to allow for two people, room for a wheelchair to turn and also to include both a hoist and a height-adjustable adult changing bench.
“A changing place facility is designed to put the health, safety, proper hygiene and dignity concerns of the person with a disability and the carer to the fore.
“Unfortunately, due to the fact that there are no such toilet facilities in Athlone and indeed Westmeath, parents/carers are currently being forced to change their loved one on the floors of public toilets, which is a disgraceful situation in which to be for all persons concerned.
“In many cases individuals find it difficult to leave their house in comfort due to the fact that there are no adequate safe and hygienic toilet facilities available in the town for their loved ones to use with dignity. Visits to the town have to be organised down to every detail and time,” Cllr Keena added.
The Fianna Fáil Councillor stated that it was incumbent upon the existing Council members and executive to provide such a facility within the civic offices in the near future.
“This is discrimination against people who have these additional needs and it is incumbent on us as elected members to lead the way and provide a changing Place toilet facility in Athlone Civic Offices. I would hope that this action will act as a catalyst to encourage other State bodies and businesses to do likewise.
“I am now calling on this facility to be provided as soon as possible,” Cllr Keena concluded.
‘’Changing Places Toilet Facility’’ in Athlone Civic Offices to give people with additional needs and their assistants more space and the correct equipment to take care of personal hygiene, in safety and comfort”.