The latest Changing Places facility was officially opened at Colchester Library on the 23 November. This will help to transform accessibility for children and young people with a disability, allowing families to enjoy all the fun the Library has to offer without the added worry of whether there will be suitable facilities for their child.
Along with the other 30 Changing Places sites across the county, the new facility differs from a standard accessible toilet because it offers more space, specialist equipment and a height adjustable changing bench and hoist.
The new site is in addition to Changing Places facilities at Colchester Leisure World and Colchester Zoo, meaning families have more options for days out in the area and the central location means the town centre is now more accessible for all residents.
It cost just over £50,000 to build and has been funded by Essex County Council’s Short Breaks for Disabled Children’s capital grant scheme.
Councillor John Aldridge, Essex County Council’s Chairman, said: “I’m extremely proud we’ve been able to fund yet another Changing Places facility in Essex and pleased it will offer local families more opportunities to get out and about in Colchester.
“We’ve been keen to locate a new facility in the borough for some time and the Library has proved the perfect site, thanks to the great facilities it already has to offer and its central location in the town centre.
“This latest Changing Places site reiterates our commitment to ensuring all children and young people are able to benefit from the same experiences and also our desire to work with local partners to ensure accessibility for children and young people remains a key priority across the county moving forward.”
The opening marks the end of a major renovation project, as builders were required to move walls to ensure the correct size requirements for a Changing Places facility was met, while still ensuring the site includes a separate disabled toilet and baby changing station.
Councillor Sue Lissimore, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Planning and Colchester Borough Councillor for Prettygate ward, said: “I’m really excited about the new Changing Places facility at Colchester Library and what the new site will mean for children and young people with a disability, and their families - not just locally but also for those visiting the borough.
“The new site is much more than an accessible toilet facility, it’s about reassurance for families that support is available if they need it and reaffirms our commitment to providing equal opportunities for all children and young people.
“I’d like to thank everyone that came together to make the new site happen; this really is testament to the power of partnership working.”
Colchester resident, Scott Everest, said: "Our son has various disabilities and since the age of 13 has been wheelchair-bound.
“We were unable to visit Colchester town centre before the Changing Places facility opened as this would have meant we would have to change our son on a cold, hard and wet toilet floor, which is a truly unpleasant experience and strips away the dignity of those who need help the most.
“I am grateful to Essex County Council and my local Councillor, Sue Lissimore, for championing this cause and giving local people back their dignity. This now means that thousands of residents can enjoy Colchester's rich heritage."
The Short Breaks service has also awarded funding of £10,305 for a sensory space to be installed at the library, under the capital grant scheme. This is due for completion in spring 2018 and will mean families have further options for free, accessible days out and activities in the area.
The new Changing Places facility at Colchester Library can be accessed using a Radar key and these are available to buy on the Disability Rights UK website.