A change for good

Disability advocate Alvaro Huertas with Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge, MLA Simone McGurk and disability services minister Don Punch.

A NEW changing facility for people with disabilities at Fremantle’s Walyalup Koort could help bring more people into the city, says an advocate.

Beaconsfield resident Alvaro Huertas has been living in the city for six years, and having lived in a wheelchair for nearly 20 says he’s well aware of the challenges of not having easily accessible toilets.

He’s not alone: A survey by British charity Euan’s Guide found that nearly 80 per cent of people with with mobility issues would avoid going places that didn’t have an accessible toilet. The charity argues that it’s the businesses that are missing out on the billion-dollar spending power of families with at least one disabled person.

“I think certainly the key thing is the comms and making sure people know this exists and that it’s available for them,” Mr Huertas said of the toilet’s pulling power for visitors.

“In particular it’s more for people that have significant mobility challenges that can’t transfer themselves into a change room or a bathroom.

“It will allow them to get more into the community and do maybe activities that they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable doing.”

Called The Changing Place, the facility is only available to people who have an access key which comes with a Companion Card. That means they can access it 24/7 without worrying about thoughtless able-bodied bods butting in and holding them up.

The Changing Place was funded by a $150,000 state government grant and includes an adult-sized height-adjustable change table, hoist, shower, automatic doors and enough room for two assistants. Just outside is a pair of ACROD parking bays.

Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge paid tribute to former councillor Sam Wainwright’s advocating for the facility, saying that being a professional carer he was well aware of the need and pushed it throughout the new civic centre’s design phase.

“The City of Fremantle encourages diversity and is committed to creating an accessible, inclusive and welcoming community for people of all ages and abilities,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

“We are committed to making continuous improvements to ensure that buildings, facilities, services, events, information and employment opportunities are available to all community members – including people with disability.”

Disability services minister Don Punch officially opened The Changing Place and said there were now 35 open across WA.

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