Good Afternoon Jonelle
I recently enjoyed a lovely week in the Margaret River Region with my adult daughter. During our stay we enjoyed a walk on the fabulous cape to cape access walk, ate and drank our way through the many wineries and breweries in the Region and enjoyed the amazing local produce at many restaurants and cafes. We also enjoyed capturing the magnificent beauty of the area with our love of photography.
Unfortunately as my daughter is a quadriplegic with high support needs, it also meant that a lot of time was wasted travelling back and forwards to our accommodation, to attend to her personal care needs. In one instance we had to drive over an hour and a half just to get back to our accomodation as there was no suitable changing facility in the southwest to assist with her toiletting needs.
It made travelling in the area, stressful, undignified, upsetting for my daughter and significantly disrupted our plans and the ability to enjoy our holiday like our family and friends. I’m sure most able bodied people couldn’t possibly comprehend the idea not having any public toilets available to them? And the thought of having to travel 100km to use one would be simply ludicrous. Some people have had to resort to laying down on a public toilet floor to get changed….. the thought that an adult has to even contemplate doing this is not only disrespectful and disgraceful, but quite simply, more often physically impossible for the person and caregivers.
My daughter leads a very active life and enjoys participating extensively within the community and as much as she has complex medical needs, they do not define her, and she likes to participate and enjoy the same opportunities and freedoms as her able bodied friends and family.
When I investigated further, it seemed there were absolutely no facilities in the SouthWest Region to support those with significant disabilities. The Perth Metropolitan Area has recently got on board with the national initiative and is making great progress towards providing adult changing facilities through “Changing Places” A “ Changing Places” facility allows for adults with severe or profound disabilities to access public toilet facilities with dignity and the same freedom as other members of the public.
Changing Places are not standard accessible toilets, they are designed to include an adult changing table, hoist, sometimes showering facilities, and sufficient space to allow two people to assist with the users needs in a safe environment.
The Government has recently announced funding support for the development of changing places in the local government areas of Bunbury, Collie, Fremantle, Gingin, Joondalup, Kalgoorlie, Katanning, Melville, Port Hedland, Moore and Cundedin. It is also my understanding that several other privately funded facilities have also committed to funding additional facilities in Perth Metropolitan landmarks and major public attractions (such as Perth Stadium).
While i acknowledge we have gained significant improvement in this area of supporting people with disabilities, it seems that the SouthWest Region of WA is still greatly lacking in supporting this much needed initiative and resource.
The fact that no facilities are earmarked for south of Bunbury, indicates that our major tourist industry in the southwest and greater southern region are really lacking in supporting those with additional needs to participate inclusively within the Community.
Although a changing places facility is ideally specifically designed and developed specifically as a new structure, there is no reason why it cannot be adequately resourced using existing facilities, that could be better utilised to cater for all needs.
An ideal option would be a local recreation centre, pool, very large disabled toilet facilities or existing buildings or rooms that are not being utilised or used to their greatest potential.
As the Margaret River Region undoubtedly the most popular region in the southwest of WA, it would be an obvious choice of location to investigate supporting the changing places initiative. Not only could it increase tourist activity, but it would promote an inclusive community, and allow people with significant disabilities, the opportunity of participating and enjoying your beautiful region.
I understand as an advocate and passionate supporter of those with special needs, you may be interested supporting this proposal. I am sure you will agree that it is an area that greatly needs attention and support within the Margaret River Region.
I have attached the links to the Disability Services Commission and Changing Places Organisation, which will give you further information and I am more than happy to be involved in any discussions or planning that might assist in the development of the changing places facility.