“Everybody has the same needs. Some people’s just have to be catered for a bit differently.”
For Fiona Allen, Access and Inclusion Officer at the City of Mandurah in Western Australia, once you explain to someone the difference a Changing Places facility creates, people can really appreciate the importance of these facilities in communities.
Fiona was a part of a community reference group brought together to include the lived experience of people with disability into the design and development the City’s first Changing Places facility, built next to the Mandurah Visitor’s Centre.
Since then, the City has included another facility at the Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre and has supported and promoted the inclusion of a facility at the Mandurah Forum.
“I must admit, prior to being a part of the reference group, I wasn’t aware of Changing Places and the difference they make to not only people with disability, but families, friends and support workers. A person’s whole network, really,” says Fiona.
“Having to plan your day around if and when you might need to go to the toilet is something that can cause a level of stress and anxiety.
“Providing a Changing Places means users can stay in out and about for longer, are able to access events, support local businesses, and ultimately have a better connection with their local government and community.”
Although these benefits seem quite clear, Fiona says that there is still a long way to go to raise the profile of Changing Places facilities.
“A lot of people are still unaware of what a Chancing Places facility is, how to access it and how to use it,” says Fiona.
It’s for this reason that Fiona sees her position at the City of Mandurah as one based on advocacy, highlighting opportunities that increase accessible infrastructure in the community.
“People may have NDIS funds to access support workers to get involved in their community, but if the local community doesn’t have accessible infrastructure, services and programs, people will continue to have limited opportunities to participate and contribute.”
Local Governments wanting to make their area more accessible can get started by learning more about building a Changing Places facility.