How local councils can make communities accessible to everyone

“There’s a lot of opportunity for local councils to build more Changing Places facilities,” says Jack Mulholland, Community Access and Inclusion Facilitator at Maroondah City Council.

“When you’re working on major projects, or building new community infrastructure, you need to make sure it’s accessible to all.”

Jack knows a thing or two about Changing Places in Australia. He is in large part responsible for bringing the facilities to the country, way back in 2011.

“It’s pretty awesome to see how far it’s come – from zero to more than 160 now, it’s a big achievement,” he says.

“I learned from the UK early on that the first 100 was the slowest, that each milestone you get to, the next one comes quicker. I believe the same will happen here in Australia.”

According to Jack, the biggest opportunity for even more growth in Australia lies in our local councils.

“We should be covering every community, and make sure all Australians with disability – no matter where they live – can access a Changing Places,” says Jack.

“When it comes to community infrastructure, I’d like to see the people overseeing things make sure what they’re working on is accessible to all, not just being built to standards.”

For Jack, when local councils make the decision to build a Changing Places facility, they aren’t just building a toilet. They’re changing lives.

“If you have an understanding of the issue, and how so many people can’t access the community because you don’t have a toilet that doesn’t meet their needs, you can’t ignore it.

“If you’re in a position to building a Changing Places, you’re in a position to change lives. It’s really quite powerful – why wouldn’t you?”

The impact you’re making isn’t just for people with disability.

“Not having access to usable toilets results in social isolation for not only the person with disability, but their family as well,” says Jack.

“For some, a simple outing can also involve changing their loved one on the floor of a public toilet. Or having them sit in soiled clothing. These undignified options infringe on people’s basic human rights, and are a real health risk for people.”

Jack’s vision is for every part of Australia to have its own Changing Places facility, so no matter where a person is they can feel confident they have a facility nearby. For him, Councils have the opportunity to make that happen.

“You have the power to change people’s lives, you really have. Once you learn about this issue, you can’t unlearn. It’s about people who can’t maximise opportunities in life, just because there’s no toilet available. That isn’t fair,” says Jack.

Councils wanting to make their area more accessible can get started by learning more about building a Changing Places facility.