Health activist’s hopes for disability facility ‘changed’ into reality

Gary McCann.
Gary McCann.

A LOCAL health activist who has been campaigning for the area’s first state-of-the-art disability facility is set to see his efforts ‘changed’ into reality.

Gary McCann from Castledawson first approached Magherafelt District Council earlier this year about disability facilities at the new Greenvale Leisure Centre.

Although the soon-to-be opened centre will have up-to-date disability provision, Mr McCann said that those with profound or multiple limiting disabilities are not catered for.

He approached council officers about installing a Changing Places unit in the newly built centre back in March with the support of Mencap. It is an issue close to his heart, as his daughter, five year-old Katy Maguire suffers from devere disabilites.

The facilities promoted by the Changing Places provide more space than a normal accessible toilet; an overhead room coverage hoist system, height adjustable changing benches, height adjustable wash hand basins, showering facilities, peninsular toilets and privacy screen.

Last week at Magherafelt District Council meeting, councillors said that building work into the unit would be looked into, although it would not be built in time for the opening of the new leisure centre next month.

“This is fantastic news for Magherafelt and for everyone West of the Bann, as when it is installed it will be the only Changing Places facility in the area.

“Not only will this benefit people with disabilities using the leisure centre, particularly those who have disabled children but also those who want to make a visit to the town to do a bit of shopping. Trips like that were impossible before for parents like ourselves, who have a severely disabled child, before.

“There’s also no doubt that a facility of this kind will boost the local economy as more and more people will come to the town knowing that they are catered for.

“I know from our own experience with Katy we have not been able to attend events in the town, and if we did it would have been cut short to take Katy home to change her. The alternative was to change her on a urinated floor. This will all change when Changing Places is installed.”

Sinn Fein councillors brought the discussion to the council on Mr McCann’s behalf at last week’s full council meeting.

Councillor Sean McPeake said the wheels are now in motion to look into construction of the facility once the current contract of building work is finished at the new leisure centre site.

“We have certainly raised it, and it will be done,” councillor McPeake told the MAIL.

Currently there are only eight other Changing Places facilities in the province. When put in place the Magherafelt provision will be the only state-of-the-art facility West of the Bann.

Mr McCann continued: “I’d like to thank councillors for taking on board the plight of disabled children and bringing it forward to this resolution in installing Changing Places.

“Hopefully other towns will follow suit with installing this type of facility.”