Belfast luxury hotel apologises after mum forced to change disabled child on floor
A brand new Northern Ireland hotel has apologised after a mother had to change her severely disabled daughter on the floor of one of its toilets.
The four-star Titanic Hotel, in the former Harland & Wolff headquarters and drawing offices opened, last September. It said it would be reviewing its facilities after Newtownabbey mum Michelle Wylie Neill's visit.
After a shopping trip in the city on Sunday, she and daughter Aimee, along with her friend and her disabled son, decided to pop into the new Titanic Hotel for coffee on the way home.
Four-year-old Aimee suffers numerous life-limiting conditions. She can't speak, is tube fed, permanently in a wheelchair and needs to use a nappy.
"As any mother of a child like Aimee will tell you, you either never go out or only go to places you know you will get her changed," said Michelle.
"But we thought, it's a brand new hotel and she had just been changed so we'd be okay while we had coffee. But she is very sensitive and when she wants changed you just have to change her."
As Aimee started to complain her mother sought out the toilet facilities only to find the facilities not up to her needs.
She asked at the hotel's reception desk if there was a discreet place nearby not being used or even if she could use a bedroom.
"The accessible toilet was so small there was not enough room. Aimee has to be laid down flat, you can't do it on your knee," she said. "When I asked them at reception, I was amazed to be handed towels.
"My daughter is highly susceptible to infection and I was made to change her on the floor of a toilet. I was raging and it shouldn't happen in 2018."
Staff apologised when Michelle made her feelings known and a manager said the staff member involved would be spoken to.
Aimee was diagnosed before birth and from four weeks old has been in and out of hospital with seizures and other debilitating conditions.
"We were told to go home and enjoy her by the doctors," her mum added. "And every day since we have done just that. We are always out or on holidays.
"It's not easy but you have to make use of the life you have.
"She is a wee monkey. She had her own ways and her own personalities just like everyone else and she was not happy after having to lay on a toilet floor on Sunday."
Michelle campaigns for better awareness for accessibility for people like her daughter.
"There are lots of places that have specialist hoists and benches. I was surprised there was nothing in this new hotel which has just opened," she said.
"We are not asking for everywhere to have state-of-the-art equipment. I have an extended bench in my home and it was £70 more than the standard baby one. It's not excessive."
She added: "I don't think anyone in the hotel was trying to be an any way nasty on purpose. They just didn't use their common sense.
"We were at the Stormont Hotel recently for her birthday - because you never know if its going to be the last one - and they were superb in helping us. I actually rang them to say how grateful I was for all their help after my experience at Titanic.
"You can't just put a disabled sticker on a toilet and think you have everyone covered."
Adrian McNally, general manager at the hotel, said: "We are so very sorry that one of our visitors has experienced such distress during a recent visit to the hotel.
"As a hotel within part of one of the world's most visited areas, we are proud to be fully accessible within the law and we comply with all hotel regulations.
"We regret being unable to cater for this young lady's specific needs. However, this is an issue that is important to us and will help to review the facilities that are available going forward."