Hamilton unveils NZ's first fully accessible disability bathroom

The first fully accessible disability bathroom in the country was opened in Hamilton yesterday as it's revealed that many ordinary disability loos don't actually live up to their name.

Seven Sharp's Carolyn Robinson went to check it out. Source: Seven Sharp

"The irony is that with disability toilets is that you've actually got to be quite able in order to use one," caregiver Jenn Hooper says.

The new fully accessible loo in Hamilton Gardens is changing that for those nearby.

But the usability of most disability loos has been an issue for caregivers throughout New Zealand wanting to take their charges out.

"You've got to lay them on the floor of a public bathroom, I'd challenge you guys to walk on floor of public bathroom in bare feet, let alone lay down on it," Jenn says.

First hand experience with one of Jenn's patients, Charley, led her to create Changing Places NZ modelled on a similar campaign in the UK.

"Charley is gorgeous. She had a massive brain injury at her birth. It was a botched birth, She's 12 and a half now she can't move a muscle and doesn't know who we are,” Jenn says.

And after three years she's finally ready to show off the results of her efforts with the Hamilton Gardens loo.

"It's a height adjustable toilet," Jenn says.

"It also has space either side for a caregiver to assist. Everyone retains their dignity and privacy."

Curtains give privacy no matter who needs the loo, the carer or the cared-for.

A height-adjustable and fully automated sink has somewhere to hold on to.

But an adult-sized changing table might just be the best feature, because it enable someone with Carley's level of disability to be showered.

And if you think that's not that big a deal, it is.

"I can't shower Charley even in Starship, there's not one DHB I know of that has this system,” Jenn says.

"If I want to take my family say to Taupo for a week, Charley wont get a shower. I would take a picnic table. I'd put a yoga mat on it, and I'd bucket and ladle her."

So that all users can use all of it, there's even a hoist.

Jenn worked with the Hamilton City Council to get this funded and built, and now she’s shown what’s possible, it's hoped more rooms will follow.

"Councils haven't not built them because they've been remiss, they didn't know there was a need," she says.

"The DHBs knew there was a need though, and I'm disappointed that after decades upon decades of having high needs folk, didn't do better.

"Let's start with every city, suburb, bus stations, and train stations and airports.

"I want to be able to go with Charley everywhere that you can go, it's as simple as that really."