Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

On the floor of a public bathroom.

On the floor of a public bathroom.

Laura Galati

Year 10, Catholic Ladies College

On the floor of a public bathroom. That is where many parents and carers of children and adults with disabilities are forced to change them. This is degrading as well as unsanitary. In the entirety of Melbourne, there are only 78 changing places that have adult sized changing tables and ceiling hoists. Out of all of the public bathrooms everywhere in Melbourne only 78 are fully accessible!

I am lucky that I can lift most of the children I work with and often have others carer with me to help us find the least humiliating place to change our friends. We have now put together a kit with a mat in it to ensure that we will never have to disrespect them in that way. However many parents do not have that luxury and as their child grows it becomes more difficult for them to place them on baby changing tables.

The floor of a public toilet is disgusting and I feel as though I am disrespecting my friends when I am forced to lie them on the floor. Sometimes the floor looks so filthy that I am instead forced to cram their bodies onto a baby changing table and attempt to hold them there while I change them. This is often very uncomfortable, especially if the changing table has bars or beams that stop small kids from rolling off.

Neither of these situations is ideal and it disappoints me that my friends would ever be forced to lie on the floor of a public bathroom just to have their basic needs met.

Although the changing places initiative was voluntary, from May 1st 2019, new building regulations in Australia will stipulate which buildings must include an accredited Accessible Adult Changing Facility. This includes large shopping centres, sports venues, museums, art galleries and airports. (https://www.disabilityaccessconsultants.com.au/accessible-adult-change-facilities-vs-changing-places/)

I wholeheartedly believe that every public place should have an accessible changing place. I cannot begin to express how excited this makes me; It is wonderful to know that when I take my friends out in public, we will have access to the facilities we need. We will be able to explore more places without dread of the moment when they need to use the bathroom. It will be safer for carers everywhere who no longer have to strain and attempt to lift their friends onto tall, tiny tables. It will be safer for those with a disability who are no longer at risk of rolling off the sides, or contracting who knows what from the bathroom floor. We will be able to ensure that they always feel as though they are being treated with respect and dignity, and that's what matters to me.