Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has confirmed it is “investigating” measures it can take to ensure a Portadown changing places toilet will no longer require 24 hours notice to ensure the facility can be used.
At present, those who wish to use the changing places toilet at Portadown People’s Park are required to notify Council , 24 hours before they intend to use the facility – a situation a local councillor has described as “farcical”.
Changing places toilets are designed so that they are completely accessible and provide sufficient space and equipment for people who are not able to use the toilet independently.
Describing the situation at the park, a concerned parent, Zoë McCullough said it is “unacceptable”.
“On a recent trip to the park, we discovered the changing places facility is now inaccessible. To gain access you must phone 24 hours in advance so someone can open the doors for you,” she said.
“This means a child, young person or adult will have to know a day in advance – if only it was that easy to know when my child was going to need changed.
“It is unacceptable to have a facility of this manner, publicise that it is there and then restrict its use in this manner.
“To use regular toilets I do not need to phone in advance.
“I am fed up, these places are deemed ‘inclusive’ but access requirements like this really call that into question.”
When asked if Council was aware of this situation, who was responsible for signing off on the decision to implement this policy and if Council would consider it acceptable if other members of the public had to give 24 hours notice of their intent to use restrooms at Council facilities, a spokesperson for the local authority said it “recognised the need to improve user accessibility”.
“The notification for use of the changing places toilet facility at People’s Park in Portadown is a temporary arrangement,” said a Council spokesperson.
“The current access point is restricted by sole entry through the pavilion, which requires manual opening and closing by a staff member to facilitate access.
“Council has recognised the need to improve user accessibility and is actively investigating the possibility of installing a new external door that will use radar key technology to aid controlled public access to the facility.”
Councillor Julie Flaherty described the current arrangement as “farcical” and said the notification requirement “completely negates the point of such a facility”.
“As someone who has fought continuously to see our facilities made fully inclusive and accessible to all, you can imagine how shocked I was to discover this ‘temporary arrangement’”, said Cllr Flaherty.
“As temporary as it may be, it completely negates the point of such a facility.
“The need to notify someone of the intent to use the facility 24 hours before you intend to use it renders it not fit for purpose as it is out of the question to ask anyone to book in advance to use such a facility.
“It is unfortunate that this had to be pointed out before suitable action to rectify the situation is undertaken.”
However, Cllr Flaherty said she was pleased to see plans for a new access to be installed are being worked on.
“I am pleased to see work progressing at pace to put in place what I believe to be the only solution – an external radar key access door.
“This will put an end to this farcical arrangement and ensure that this park, which belongs to us all, is truly inclusive.”