Hello Alastair, Firstly I’d like to apologise for the delay in sending this email, but life kind of got in the way which it tends to do if you have young children and especially when one is profoundly disabled. I am contacting you about our recent visit to the Giant’s Causeway on Easter Sunday. We had an amazing day, the Easter hunt was great fun and the weather was fantastic. We took the bus down to the stones and the driver was very helpful with our eldest son Daniel who is 6 and a wheelchair user.
We tend to plan most of our days out around Daniel’s needs – he has profound learning delays, no mobility, no speech and significant dietary requirements. He is also doubly incontinent.
We visit the Giant’s Causeway because of the amazing facilities it offers from heating facilities for food, wheelchair access and most importantly toilet facilities in the shape of a Changing Places facility. I’m sure you’ll know they are in limited supply in Northern Ireland so you should be really proud that your venue has one. It makes such a difference to families like mine.
Our disappointment with our visit happened when we went to change Daniel. The Changing Places toilet was locked, which is understandable as I’m sure left open it may be misused. However, a clear sign asks users to contact a member of staff to gain access.
Here’s where our problem began: The first member of staff I approached asking for a key to the Changing Places toilet argued that it was open and escorted me back to the toilets and pointed to the disabled toilet, I explained to him that I needed access to the Changing Places toilet to change my child (who was with me by the way in his wheelchair). This member of staff then disappeared.
Another member of staff appeared from the cleaning room I asked her for a key, she said there wasn’t a key and just to use the disabled toilet as it was open. Again I explained I needed access to the Changing Places toilet to change my son. She said she’d go and look for it. Another member of staff then appeared with the first and again suggested I used the disabled toilet. Which required another repeat of why I needed access to the Changing Places toilet. This member of staff seemed to have a ‘light bulb’ moment exclaiming ‘ah you need in to the shower room’. He then called a colleague who promptly returned with the key.
This exchange took around 20 minutes before we were able to access the Changing Place toilet.
I am sure you would agree that this is not good enough. Having a Changing Places facility is amazing but your staff need to be aware of what it actually is, who needs it and why and more importantly how visitors with a disability gain access to it.
I would ask your staff to familiarise themselves with the information provided by the Changing Places Campaign or why not incorporate this information into your staff induction/training plans?
We’ll be back again in the Summer. We are looking forward to our next visit but very much hope that there will be an improvement in access to the Changing Places toilet.
Best wishes, Claire
Reply from Giant’s Causeway
Thank you for your email regarding your recent visit to the Giant’s Causeway.
I wholeheartedly agree that a 20 minute wait to get into the Changing Places room is unacceptable and offer my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience and distress caused which may have taken the shine off an otherwise great day out.
As you point out we do keep the room locked to ensure it is not misused and is available for those who need it. At this time of year we do have new seasonal staff in training which may have been the cause of the delay. I have taken additional steps to ensure that all staff on site are fully aware of the need for the facility and the process to give access to the Changing Places room so that such a delay is not repeated.
Yours sincerely Alastair Walker
Site Manager Giant’s Causeway
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