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By Kim Edwards, Changing Places campaigner based in North Wales

kim edwardsWhether I am in a wheelchair or not, I am still just another human being.
And, like any sociable 30 something, I like to go out.
But I have Friedreich's Ataxia.

Within my local community, and across the whole of North Wales, there are verty limited places for me to access the correct facilities to go to the toilet. It means I am unable to leave the house for more than a couple of hours.

I have to return home and therefore it limits my social life. As I am naturally a very social person, it pains me that I cannot be out and about in my local community as much as I would like.

Currently people with profound disabilities are excluded from their local towns because they are not able to have their basic human needs met; simply use the toilet. This is why I am determined to campaign and to raise awareness of this fact, in order for local authorities to sit up and pay attention and to ensure that everywhere is disability friendly and can meet EVERYONE’S needs.

Having more local ‘changing places’ will have a massive impact as it will remove restrictions and allow people with disabilities to be included in our local communities across the whole of North Wales. It will enable us to enjoy a day out without the stress of worrying about accessing toilet facilities. It will also increase our independence and overall health and wellbeing.

Access and availability of these toileting facilities will also encourage social inclusion. It will enable us to meet friends/peers and to access local activities and facilities. These facilities will also provide the opportunity to do what we want, when we want to do it, and to do what everyone else can do, which in turn gives us a sense of inclusion, fulfillment, dignity, respect, achievement and independence.

Providing a proper ‘changing place’ provides all the space and equipment, such as a hoist and a changing bed amongst other items, which are needed to avoid people being changed on an unhygienic floor, not changed at all, or even go out into the community in the first place. It has also been realised that the way people are getting around this, including myself, is to either not go out, have strict time limits on their activities or rely on places such as designated day centres. Having these facilities spread across the whole of North Wales will not only allow and encourage people to go out into our communities but will increase our independence and reduce dependency on services such as care agencies.

Another positive outcome of providing these facilities and enabling people with disabilities to access the community, is that it makes disabilities visible to the public.

It will help to reduce the ignorance and stigma whilst enhancing the general public’s understanding and awareness of the variety of different disabilities and the specific needs that these disabilities bring to each individual. Raising awareness will also help people to become more accepting and patient.

I am a big believer that, if you don’t understand ASK!!