By Ursula Duddy

New toilet facilities for disabled people have been opened at Ebrington Square in Derry.

The ‘Changing Places’ bathroom facility, which is the first in the Western Trust area, is funded by social caring agency, Glen Caring.

The new facility was opened on Monday.

The new facility will make life easier for local people with disabilities and will also provide accessibility for those who may be travelling to the city and requiring such bathroom facilities.

The facility includes a height adjustable adult sized changing bench, a tracking hoist system, adequate space in changing area for up to two people and a centrally placed Aqua 800 washing, drier toilet with adequate room either side.

It also includes a curtain to allow privacy, non-slip flooring and a shower with floor drainage.

Linda Beckett, Glen Caring General Manager, said that the new facility provides a much-needed service for those with more complex needs.

“From our own experience of taking clients on respite care daytrips, standard disabled toilets are simply not enough for those with severe mobility issues,” she said.

“This new facility enables them and their carers to enjoy trips to and days out in Derry and the surrounding areas, with the security of knowing that their needs can be met with dignity.”

Local man, Jonathan Hagon, who cut the ribbon for the official opening, says the new changing facility is ‘exactly what this city needs’.

“It is so handy for both people in town and people in the Waterside, going to the arena or St Columb’s Park,” he said.

“It means someone who normally couldn’t go on an outing with their friends and family can now do so. Having the use of the hoist and changing bed is brilliant – this makes life easier for so many people.

“We have been in the situation in the past where, my mum and her friend have had to lay my friend on cold tiles on the floor of a toilet to be changed, which was awful for my friend. I can’t wait to tell them about the new Glen Caring facility on the square.”

The Mayor of Derry & Strabane Maolíosa McHugh, who was also present at the event, said this is a welcome boost for the city.

“I’m delighted that such a superb facility is now available to the people of Derry and Strabane and to visitors to our city and region.  This opening is an important step in making our city more inclusive and accessible, and should be recognised and welcomed as such”.

Martin Graham, Tourism NI Regional Manager for the Derry & Strabane council area welcomed the new state of the art facilities “I commend the work of Glen Caring and their focus on accessible tourism, the implementation of this facility will help ensure that all visitors can travel to the area with ease and comfort.”

Orla McCann, an assistant director at Disability Action NI, says better access is not just the right thing to do for individuals with disability; it’s also the right direction for tourism.

Speaking at the official opening event, she said: “There are an estimated 11 million people in the UK with some form of disability – a demographic that’s been overlooked for far too long.

“In economic terms, this demographic is worth a potential £2 billion-a-year to the UK tourism market. By taking an inclusive approach to future tourism development, Northern Ireland could take its share of this market.”

If you would like further information about the new Ebrington Square facility, you can email Glen Caring on info@glencaring.com.

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