The Shoalhaven is ahead of the game in installing adult change facilities in parks and centres, according to disability advocate Annette Pham.
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“Shoalhaven council has been absolutely wonderful and have put in many of these facilities. Each little village and town should have an adult change facility,” Mrs Pham said.
The first public facility in the state was installed at Nowra Aquatic Centre in 2015. It was closely followed by toilets at Vincentia, Mollymook and Burrill Lake.
Mrs Pham, whose son Liam has a disability and is wheelchair bound, said the Lift and Change facilities made a world of difference to their lives.
She is pushing for the facilities to be written into legislation to make sure they are installed in future developments of a big enough size.
“It is the only way to go. It has to be legislated so if someone wants to build say a medical centre, and it is of a big enough size, they have to put an adult change facility in there,” Mrs Pham said.
“If you leave it to people to do, they won’t do it if they have to pay money for it.
“These facilities serve the most basic need of people. We are talking a toilet, not a science museum.”
The issue is so close to Mrs Pham’s heart she paid to have a Lift and Change facility installed in her Worrigee medical centre at a cost of about $60,000.
Mrs Pham said the lack of infrastructure was the biggest hurdle for people with a disability and their families.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have to spend to go place and to do things, if you haven’t got the toileting facilities when you get there, you just don’t go there,” she said.
“If you build a place like this [Livvi’s Place in Mollymook], people will come.
“At Burleigh Heads, people purposely plan their trips for holidays because there are so many facilities available, like beach mats to push the wheelchair on the sand.
“It will be the same here [Mollymook].”
Getting a facility in Huskisson was the next target for Mrs Pham.
South Coast MP Shelley Hancock said the state government needed to looked at including Lift and Change facilities in future infrastructure projects.
“Just like it is mandatory when we build a highway, we build a cycle way, then we have to take that in and look at the same thing for these facilities,” she said.
State minister for disability services Ray Williams was in Mollymook on Tuesday and said he saw the state’s future role being to create “greater inclusion in communities”.
“I see our role in the future one that we will be providing infrastructure, typical of what a state government does in providing roads and footpaths and hospitals and schools,” he said.
“But, when the feds [sic] take over the provision of services for people with a disability, I see our role in this space to be in creating greater inclusion and working closely with the council.”
Mrs Pham said the lack of Lift and Change facilities made her “want to cry sometimes”.
“A couple of weeks ago I had to take Liam to Sydney and, of course, we got on Mount Ousley and I had to change him,” she said.
“The only place I could find to change him was the new truck stop they have built on the top of Mount Ousley. I pulled in there and thought, I can use the bench outside where people sit down, I’ve got a mat. But there was people there.
“I had to put him on the floor of the toilet. I went in there first and I came out because it was so disgusting. I put stuff down on the floor and then asked a complete stranger to help me come into the toilet and lift Liam out of the wheelchair with me. It would have been a perfect spot to have one, it’s on the highway.
“Everyone just takes for granted when they do the journey to Sydney, you can just nip in here and there but we just can’t do that.”
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