Call for ‘lift-and-change’ toilet for disabled kids

A new ‘lift-and-change’ toilet for disabled kids in the Shoalhaven has Eurobodalla Shire parents adding to their wishlists. 

The all-abilities playground, Livvi’s Place, was opened in Mollymook late last year.

The $1.4 million project boasts a specialised lift-and-change facility – to the appreciation of parents who must still toilet older disabled children.

Changing an older child is often at the expense of parents’ backs and everyone’s dignity, as families have explained to the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner.

Eurobodalla parents say they would welcome similar facilities throughout the shire, to take some of the stress out of a day out.

Lift and change facilities are larger than standard accessible changing facilities, and include extra features like ceiling hoists and more space for the disabled and their carers.

Annette Pham, whose son Liam is disabled, has been a driving force behind the Ulladulla playground and the inclusion of a lift and change facility. 

“From me, from my husband and from Liam I say, ‘thanks’. This is a magnificent play space and the lift and change facility enhances its usability for everybody,” she said. 

“I can’t tell you how difficult it is for people who have a profound disability and for children and adults who have disabilities to try and live a normal everyday life. 

“There used to be a bench in front of the Liberty Swing (at Ulladulla) and when we would come here, we would have to change Liam on that bench in the open. That no longer has to happen,” Mrs Pham said. 

“(Liam) can now have his dignity and we don’t have to hide him and embarrass him. We are aiming to have a seamless society where we can leave our home and do everything people take for granted and it is happening.”

Accessible change rooms are being rolled out across the state because of Mrs Pham’s campaign. 

By 2019, adult change facilities will be standard in Australia. Mrs Pham said she would continue to fight for an inclusive society. 

“We have a lot of work to do but we will get there,” she said. 

“Things you and I take for granted like going out, going to the shops, and knowing we can use a toilet somewhere, are an everyday battle for my family. 

“This is why we have fought to try and build an inclusive society and I am really happy to say that the community hears, the council here hears, the government hears, and we are making a change,” Mrs Pham said. 

“It is difficult to express how I am feeling today. I feel included and accepted and I am not left outside anymore. We can come here and use the playground and the Lift and Change facility.”

The Eurobodalla has been at the forefront of a push for disability friendly tourism.

The community lobby group, The Bay Push led the charge for the popular all-abilities playground and Liberty Swing at Corrigans Reserve, Batehaven.

Research shows all abilities playgrounds increase commercial and visitor activity in the areas they are installed.

Budawang Public School principal Sheryl Bruffey said the Ulladulla playground, and the facilities it included, would bring more people into the area. 

“I think it will bring people and money into the community because people will travel to use this facility,” she said.

“We (the school) use it every day. There is something here for everybody and all ages – I’m so glad they’ve kept the exercise equipment.”

South Coast MP Shelley Hancock said lift and change facilities had since been built in five locations throughout the state. 

“I hadn’t heard of them because I don't have a child with a disability and I haven’t had to think about where I may change that child when the child got big and too heavy to carry, and whether I might have to end up changing that person on the floor of a toilet block,” she said. 

“Annette Pham told me about the change facilities and has continued to advocate for them.

“She should be applauded for everything she has done in this space. It is absolutely wonderful. Annette has come to parliament house, along with Liam, to meet with ministers and talk about where we change our kids when they are too big to change on a baby change table,” Mrs Hancock said. 

“The State Government (is) now trialing sights all over NSW. This is something that started with Annette and has spread throughout the state.”

Mrs Hancock said the playground was a, “great all inclusive play area in the most beautiful place”. 

“Hopefully we can build more Livvi’s places throughout the Shoalhaven,” she said. 

This story Call for ‘lift-and-change’ toilet for disabled kids first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.