Upgrade boost for disabled access

WORK is well underway to build a new changing facility for disabled people in a bid to boost their access to public places.

The toilet block near the car park in Coronation Drive, adjacent to Newburn Bridge, in Seaton Carew is being extended using 80,000 of Government funding.

When the work is complete the room will include a shower, automated hoist and a bed which can be accessed 24 hours a day by RADAR key holders, a scheme which gives disabled people access to public toilets.

The facility is one of three areas in Hartlepool to benefit from the Aim High for Disabled Children Short Break Transformation Programme, a Government funded programme to improve access to public places for disabled people.

The scheme is aimed at people who have specific needs or disabilities and council officers say it will result in a state-of-the-art changing facility to be used by children and adults along with their carers.

A similar facility has been installed at Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road, at a cost of 20,000 and a further facility will be created at the former toilet block adjacent to Hartlepool's Maritime Experience at a cost of 45,000 through the Aiming High programme.

Both the Seaton Carew and Maritime Experience schemes are expected to be completed by March.

Tracy Liveras, the council's lead officer for Aiming High, said: "These new facilities are a welcome boost to the town and will provide reassurance to people with special needs and disabilities that first class accessible changing provisions are available at key locations in Hartlepool.

"The need for accessible changing facilities in key community locations was identified in consultation with families of disabled children who told us that this type of facility would be much welcomed in Hartlepool.

"Parents identified the lack of accessible changing facilities as a barrier to accessing short break care, play, leisure and social activities for their children.

"The development of these facilities should also help to raise the profile of Hartlepool as an accessible place to visit."

Independent Seaton councillor Paul Thompson said: "This is going to be a fantastic resource that will really benefit families with disabled children.

"No child should have to be changed on the floor of a toilet in this day and age and this is going to help children of all ages and improve their access to public places like Seaton Carew."

The 140,000 Seaton Carew toilet block, which is popular with walkers, opened in August 2009. It includes four unisex toilets including a toilet for people with disabilities.