The mother of a 12-year-old disabled Hautapu schoolboy says they will use the newly-opened Cambridge Pool’s first aid room until the disability changing room is better equipped as a Changing Places facility or similar.
Diane Belcher says her son Daniel, who has spina bifida and severe kyphoscoliosis (curvature of the spine), had to change on the disability room’s concrete floor because of a lack of space and equipment.
In response, Waipā District Council acknowledged it has had “challenges” around design and supply for the disability changing room.
“It’s frustrating for everyone and we are disappointed that this wasn’t resolved prior to opening. This is being treated with urgency,” said Debbie Lascelles, group manager Strategy and Community Services.
“It’s downright disgusting that this new facility is not fit for purpose for 25 per cent of the community.”
To meet the needs of people with physical disabilities such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis; disability changing rooms need extra equipment and space which should include a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench and a mobile hoist.
There should also be enough space for the disabled person and up to two carers. Without these a disabled person’s safety and those of their carers are put at risk, said Ms Belcher.
“Where’s the dignity for our disabled community?
“It’s downright disgusting that this new facility is not fit for purpose for 25 per cent of the community. The pools at Te Awamutu are the same.
“A hoist into the pool and all the ramps in the world don’t mean a thing if the people who use them can’t get changed.”
“Where’s the dignity for our disabled community?”
Asked whether the council would consult with the disability community over what was needed at the pool, Ms Lascelles said the providers council worked with specialised in working with disabled people.
The lack of facilities was not a funding issue but because the council was unable to get supplies.
“Go Waipā staff are working with individuals and their families as they visit the pool. They understand and respect that everyone has different needs,” she said. “There are alternatives.”
Disability advocate John McIntosh, who was recently honoured by the Queen with a Member of the Order of New Zealand for his services to disabled people, has scoliosis himself.
“It must have been very uncomfortable and undignified for Daniel on the concrete floor,” he said.
“Ideally planners should consult with the users to ensure universal and lifetime accessibility for everyone regardless of age or disability.
“There are great examples of well-planned and accessible facilities around the Waikato region to use as a template,” he said.
Changing Places facilities were established in the United Kingdom 15 years ago. There are now more than 1500 there, 150 in Australia, two in New Zealand with a third under construction.
The first Changing Places facility opened at the Hamilton Gardens in March 2018.