A LOCAL mother is helping bring about a quiet revolution in NSW.
Annette Pham from Vincentia, the mother of Liam, 12, who suffers from a profound disability, is championing the introduction of accredited Changing Places fully accessible toilets, not just in the Shoalhaven but nationwide.
Ms Pham said that as soon as Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash and council became aware of the plight of children suffering a profound disability and their carers when it came to a lack of change facilities, they were determined to do something about it.
As a result, such a facility will now be built inside the Nowra Aquatic Centre currently being constructed.
“Shoalhaven City Council is now the first local council in NSW to have such a facility put in place. We should be very proud of our council and council staff,” Ms Pham said.
Changing Place toilets cater to the needs of adults and children with severe and profound disabilities requiring special equipment, such as an adult-sized changing table and a ceiling hoist to use in the bathroom.
“There are currently 200,000 people suffering from a profound disability in Australia,” Ms Pham said.
“And until the Nowra Aquatic Centre is completed, there will only be six Changing Place toilets in Australia, and five of those are in Brisbane.”
She said championing the cause of Changing Place toilets was easier than she first thought it would be.
“The reaction of Jo Gash and the council is what you see most of the time when you explain to people what the difficulties are.
“Knowing that if you are the carer and you go out you may not be able to change a person with a profound disability at all, or have to use the floor of a public toilet or a park bench, can influence you to stay at home.
“Many carers in this position suffer depression, and when they try to do something by themselves may injure their back.
“The cause is being spearheaded by the Association of Children with a Disability. The association really wants to make things happen.”
Ms Pham said other places also installing or considering installing a Changing Place include the new Noah’s Ark building in Nowra, the new public toilet block at Burrill Lake, the about-to-be constructed Woolworths in Vincentia, and possibly a modified Changing Place at Stockland Nowra.
In the near future Ms Pham will help formulate a new standard for disabled toilets.
“The plan is to make it easier for the NSW government to change building standards so than in future any large building with public access, such as a cinema or aquatic centre or shopping centre, will have to include a Changing Place toilet.”
Cr Gash said Annette Pham was good at hassling councillors and ministers at both the state and national level.
“Which of course is what makes change happen,” Mayor Gash said.
“All members of the council were very supportive of the changes. The need was always there, but we were unaware of it.
“We’re very proud to be the first local council in NSW to set up a Changing Place toilet.”