Special toilet could change lives for many

A woman campainging for a special disabled toilet facitlity in North Devon believes it could help bring many disabled people out of isolation.

MORE THAN 1,600 signatures have been collected by a local campaign group petitioning for a special disabled facility in North Devon.

Sue Tucker, 45, from Braunton, suffers from genetic disease spinal muscular atrophy, and believes if the campaign for a Changing Places toilet in Barnstaple is successful it would change her life and that ofmany others.

She said: “At the moment I can only use the toilet in my home because I have to have a special hoist to get me out of my wheelchair; there is no where else I can go.

“Imagine how isolating it is to only be able to go out for a few hours at a time; I can’t stay in town for more than a few hours; I don’t go to the cinema or the theatre; I can’t go out for meals with friends or family.

“The Changing Places facility is a special toilet which has an adult-sized changing table, a special hoist and room for a carer to assist.”

Funding was secured for three Changing Places in Devon from the sale of Exeter Airport in 2007, and with one in place in Newton Abbot and one in Exeter, �14,000 remains for the North Devon area.

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Sue has been in contact with North Devon Council about the project for three years, suggesting the old Market Place toilets as a potential site for the facility.

She said: “The council say they are in favour of the idea ,but there is nowhere to put the toilet; I think you have to read between the lines.

“We had a signing day in Green Lanes on March 2, and we got more than 1,000 signatures, which is enough for us to take the matter to a full council meeting.

“Nick Harvey has also written to the council supporting the idea, and there are a lot of other groups in favour.

“For example, Pathfield School has been very helpful and also provides us with a place to hold our monthly meetings.”

Sue, who works part-time as a book keeper and has been campaigning for the facility since 2008, said she is grateful for all the support.

“I have always been a shy person; at school I was painfully shy, so it’s great to feel so many people are in support of this.

“Even holidaymakers and people out of the North Devon area, though they can’t be officially counted in the petition, signed it anyway and were enthusiastic about the idea.”

If the toilet were to be installed in a town centre location, it would mean Sue and people in a similar position could enjoy day-to-day activities.

She said: “We don’t want to have to go to Exeter and take our trade there because it is the nearest place with a public toilet we can use.

“I work here and put money into the economy and I want to be able to spend my money in the area.

“I understand they are putting a special toilet and changing facility into the Leisure Centre in Barnstaple, but that is so far out of town and we would have to pay to get into the centre to use it.

“The equipment for a Changing Places toilet would cost �7,000 which leaves another �7,000 for the building work; we have the money, we just need the council’s support and management.”

The petition will be handed over to North Devon District Council on May 9.

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