Plea for Changing Places toilet in Kendal town centre

Zak Hall and his mum Mags

Zak Hall and his mum Mags

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

LIFE as a parent can be tough but for one Sedbergh mum it is made unimaginably harder by the lack of suitable toilets for her severely disabled son.

Zak Hall, seven, was effectively stillborn at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

After resuscitation he was left with a string of severe physical and mental disabilities.

He suffers from the most severe form of cerebral palsy, is completely tube fed and has no controlled movement.

He is registered blind, cannot speak and has a rare and devastating form of epilepsy which causes more than 40 seizures a day.

All of this is compounded by the fact that on day trips to Kendal there are no changing facilties that cater for his complicated needs.

It means mum Mags has to change her son, who attends specialist Sandgate School in Kendal, on sometimes dirty and urine-soaked toilet floors.

The desperate 38-year-old, who is Zak’s full-time carer, is now calling on Kendal Town Council to install a ‘Changing Places‘ toilet in the town centre.

“I can only imagine how much more difficult life is going to get as he grows into his adult years,” she said.

“Zak is too heavy to change his nappy on the conventional baby changing units provided in most public areas.

“I have no option but to lift him out of his wheelchair and place him on a dirty, sometimes urine-soaked floor, next to an overflowing bin.”

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The family are in Kendal every weekend for their weekly food shop and also Zak’s sister Ashleigh, 15, rides horses at Larkrigg Riding School.

“We spend most of our recreational time there too, visiting friends and family, shopping and dining out,” added Mags, whose husband Gary works in the Royal Navy.

“But we are very restricted and tied to the amount of time we can spend out and about and this is purely down to the lack of changing places.”

Zak is at increased risk of picking up infection because of his conditions. If he catches something as simple as a cold, it often results in a hospital stay because his immune system struggles to cope with it.

Zak is usually taken to the baby changing room in the Westmorland Shopping Centre, but even that is not ideal, said Mags.

A 'Changing Places' toilet includes a height adjustable changing bench, a hoist to lift the person from their chair and an accessible toilet and sink accessible.

Mags said: “It is not gold-plated, it is not diamond-encrusted, it is just an accessible toilet, for all who need it, meeting the basic human rights of every man, woman and child on the street.”

In March, town councillors agreed to ‘actively seek a site’ for the toilets and revealed that £5,000 had been allocated to help fund a toilet once a suitable location has been found.

There are currently 73 in the North West but the nearest ones to Kendal are in Morecambe and Lancaster, according to the Changing Places website.

Lynne Oldham, a senior teaching assistant at Sandgate, who also sits on Kendal Town Council, said: “We would welcome any suggestions on where we could place one of the toilets.”

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