Belfast Telegraph

Call over special needs facilities

Children with disabilities in Northern Ireland have been changed on the floor of public toilets because of lack of facilities, a survey has said.

Parents called for improved facilities after having to abandon day trips due to a shortage of properly equipped spaces in businesses like restaurants.

Some had to change their children in public places including the floor of an airport, a corner of a restaurant and even having to leave their child in a soiled nappy.

Claire Smyth, mother of five-year-old Daniel, who has special needs, said: "There are so many of us who don't like putting our handbags on the floor of a public toilet yet for parents of children with disabilities, sometimes we've been left with no other option but to change our children on public toilet floors."

Research conducted by online special needs community firefly-garden.com revealed that out of 2,200 surveyed, 57% had changed their child on the floor of a public toilet.

It found that 97% said changing their child when out and about was a problem while 86% have had to leave a venue earlier than planned because of poor facilities.

Ms Smyth, community manager of Firefly Garden, said: "We fear that there are many venues, businesses, shopping centres, restaurants and visitor attractions that need to be better equipped for children with special needs. As a parent of a child with special needs, I know what a difference good facilities make.

"One of the things we desire most for our children and families is a sense of normality - being able to do things and go places without the worry of adequate facilities.

"I've lost count of the times we've had to abandon a day out because Daniel needed to be changed and there have been many occasions when a dirty public toilet floor was my only option.

"This campaign is not asking for much but we are asking, perhaps even pleading, that venues ensure there is a clean, private space for us to change our children - a space large enough to accommodate the child, the child's wheelchair or buggy and the parent or carer."

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