top of page

Matthews Welcomes Public Consultation on Changing Places

Date: 11 February 2022

Green Party TD for Wicklow and Chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee, Deputy Steven Matthews has welcomed the opening of a public consultation on the review of Part M of the building regulations to make provision for 'Changing Places' toilets in certain public buildings. The review stems from the recommendation of a Working Group, formed by Minister Malcolm Noonan after Deputy Matthews raised the issue in the Dáil of equitable access to toilet facilities. Prior to raising the issue with the Minister, Deputy Matthews had several meetings with the Changing Places Ireland advocacy group, which includes representatives from several disability groups.

Deputy Matthews was driven to push for legislative change after meeting a young woman called Sophia, who has cerebral palsy and arthrogryposis.

Deputy Matthews said, "I first became aware of the lack of bathroom access for people with profound disabilities following meetings between Green Party Cllr Erika Doyle and disability activist Aaron Daley. Both Cllr Doyle and I then met with Aaron and his daughter Sophia and he told us that as Sophia is now in her teens, she requires the use of a hoist and adult sized changing table in a toilet facility. There are few of these available, less than 20 in the State, with some counties having none at all, and no onus on developers to include one at design stage. Due of the lack of available facilities, Sophia has to be changed in the back of the family van if the family is on a day out. Often, the family simply chooses to stay at home to avoid the difficulty associated with locating an appropriate place to change Sophia.

"We then went on to have meeting with Changing Places Ireland campaigners, and learned about work that had been done in the UK. We realized that legislative change was what was required. While there are plenty of standard disabled toilet facilities, Changing Places toilets include a central changing table, a hoist, a larger floor space and a larger bin. However, it is currently completely at the discretion of each individual developer to install these.

"I then raised the issue with Minister for State Malcolm Noonan, who committed to the setting up of a Working Group. This working group included Aaron, representatives from disability groups including Changing Places Ireland, construction interests, the Department of Housing, HSE, architects, the National Disability Authority and most importantly, Changing Places users themselves. We have now reached the stage where the recommendations are ready to seek feedback.

"The fact that we have reached this stage so quickly and smoothly shows the successful outcome of activism meeting political will. While there is still a way to go, it is incredibly positive to have reached this stage and I want to pay tribute to the campaigners who have been working so hard on this for many years.

"I am positive that meaningful contributions will be made by the public along with relevant experts, and we can move to the next stage. If passed, we could see up to 80 of these facilities built each year and those who require them will finally be able to use the bathroom with dignity, while visiting towns around Ireland. For far too long people with disabilities have had to curtail their activities or change sanitary wear on floors or the backs of cars due to lack of services, and this change in legislation will change that. All documents and information on how to make a submission can be found on the Department of Housing website. Submissions can be made until 5pm on May 12th," concluded Deputy Matthews.



bottom of page