Brisbane Airport (IATA: BNE) has become the first airport in Australia to open a dedicated ‘Changing Places’ facility for passengers with special needs.
Located on the central ground floor area of BNE’s busy Domestic Terminal (near Qantas Baggage carousel 3), the ‘Changing Places’ facility was officially opened on October 11 by The Hon. Jane Prentice, Australia’s Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services.
The airport says a second ‘Changing Places’ facility, located at Brisbane’s International Terminal, will open in the new year.
Changing Places facilities are different from standard accessible bathroom amenities, providing additional space and specialised equipment such as an adult change table, hoist and toilet fitted with movable handrails for the use of people with severe disabilities and their personal carer providers.
Stephen Goodwin, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) Acting CEO said the opening of ‘Changing Places’ facility at Brisbane Airport would support many thousands of people with disabilities and their families who find it otherwise difficult to travel due to a lack of access to specialised amenities.
“There are many people who live with serious and profound disabilities who require particular facilities for personal care and, unfortunately, standard accessible bathrooms do not cater to their needs. This can be a major barrier to travel for a lot of people and this was a barrier we wanted to remove.
“It’s not just catering for a specific disability, we are focused on an ‘access for all’ approach and have a team dedicated to ensuring we are not only meeting the regulations and legislation surrounding disability access, but exceeding them.
“This includes retrofitting existing buildings with facilities like we’re opening today and making sure all upgrades and new developments improve access and the overall airport experience for people with special needs.
“We also work very closely with many organisations representing the interests of various disability groups to make sure we get it right,” Mr Goodwin said.
The Hon. Jane Prentice MP congratulated BAC on their achievements to ensure social inclusion and accessibility.
“The ‘Changing Places’ facility is an excellent demonstration of what can be achieved when whole communities work together to address the challenges faced by people with disability every day,” Mrs Prentice said.
Eddie Chapman, CEO of the Association for Children with a Disability which supports Changing Places, said although the Changing Places facility is not yet a regulatory requirement, it will give Brisbane Airport a world renowned accessible facility for those travelling with or caring for someone with a severe disability.
“Brisbane Airport has led the way in terms of not only making the airport accessible for those with higher care needs, but by doing so also opens up the City of Brisbane to individuals and families with disabilities from other states. This is the sort of mainstream inclusion that we should expect of all our public facilities.”
To date Brisbane Airport has invested more than $3 million in the last five years implementing its extensive Disability Access Management Plan in addition to the funding for DDA compliance incorporated into other major projects.
Other key ‘Access for All’ initiatives underway or introduced at Brisbane Airport include:
· Development of Brisbane Airport’s Accessibility Journey Planner which is due for release later this year
· Completion of an Access Audit Program across both terminals by an accredited access consultant who provided recommendations.
· Completion of a number of accessibility remediation projects including upgrading of public stairs, Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI’s) to escalators and travelators, lift upgrades and way-finding.
· In collaboration with QUT-based Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration: Carers and Consumers (DCRC-CC) developing a step by step guide – Ensuring a Smooth Journey: A Guide to Brisbane Airport for people living with Dementia and their Travel Companions – an action plan and resources kit for airport staff to improve the experience of air travel for people with dementia. Through this program Brisbane Airport was the first airport in Australia to be recognised by Alzheimer’s Australia as an approved Dementia Friendly organisation.
· In 2014, opening Australia’s first dedicated airport Assistance Animals ‘bathrooms’ in the International and Domestic Terminals.