Council must reassess locking disabled toilets

Central Coast Council's disabled toilet access policies under question.Central Coast Council's disabled toilet access policies under question.

The Chief Executive Officer of Charmhaven Tennis Centre is urging Central Coast Council to reassess its approach to the management of public disabled toilets.

Tennis Centre CEO, Brett Bevan, wrote to Council after centre users advised of their difficulty in accessing the Council managed disabled toilet that adjoins the centre, which they said was almost always locked. In a letter sent to Councillors, Lisa Matthews and Jillian Hogan, Bevan outlined the tennis centre community’s frustration.

“I am writing in a formal capacity on behalf of our organisation to express our immeasurable disappointment and disgust at Central Coast Council’s (CCC) current policy surrounding disabled toilets,” Bevan wrote.

“At present, council has an ongoing policy to lock public disabled toilet facilities 24/7 and further requires disabled ratepayers to pay private locksmiths to provide them with a MLAK key in order to be able to use the facilities. “This policy is at its very heart discriminatory and unlawful, and with respect, must be changed immediately. “The practical reality of such a policy now means that able-bodied ratepayers can use toilet facilities without having to pay any money for the right to access these facilities, however disabled ratepayers now must pay a locksmith to get a copy of a key to meet their disability needs.

“A further example is, at present, Charmhaven Tennis Centre has a men’s and ladies able-bodied public toilet, but we rely on an adjoining disabled toilet, controlled by Council, to service those who use or attend the centre that require a disabled toilet. “However under Council’s current policy, we are unable to qualify to get a key cut as we are not the owners of the building housing the disabled toilet, and are not a health or solely disability service provider. “This means anyone attending our centre can no longer use or gain access to the disabled toilet, and the centre cannot obtain an MLAK key to unlock the toilets for those in need of such a facility. “This policy is in clear violation of Part 4A Division 1 2 3 and 4 of the NSW Anti-Discrimination ACT 1977, and needs to be remedied immediately and without delay.

“The process of forcing those who are disabled to have to pay any sum of money to be able to use a public accessible disabled toilet is outrageous, immoral and unconscionable. “Frankly, I don’t care if Council’s intention, presumably, was to stop vandalism to disabled toilets. “The current policy is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue. “I firstly ask that Council immediately provide Charmhaven Tennis Centre with a workable MLAK key so we can at bare minimum, provide access to court users and any neighbouring community members who might be disabled, with access to the disabled toilet, located at Charmhaven Park, Parkside Dve, Charmhaven, immediately, and further, that Council suspend immediately its policy of locking its disabled toilets and moves to unlock all disability toilets.” Bevan’s letter was passed onto Council’s Open Space and Recreation Unit Manager, Brett Sherar. Bevan passed along Council’s response to the Wyong Regional Chronicle.

“While I appreciate the impacts to your centre, the reason behind the decision to keep the disabled toilets locked was to support the community that need these facilities and can’t easily find an alternate option if the toilets have been vandalised or messed badly. “This was a constant request from advocates,” Sherar said. “Having said this, Council understands that your association, and other tennis centres, have visitors from areas outside the Central Coast that don’t use MLAK keys and that need access to disabled toilets “For this reason, Council gives approval for a locksmith to provide a MLAK key to Central Coast tennis court lessees for use on Council facilities,” he said.

Bevan was told to use Sherar’s statement as verifiable proof with a locksmith to source the MLAK key. Bevan said he was not satisfied with Council’s response. “I know from experience that the only disabled public toilet in the suburb of Charmhaven has not been vandalised since the introduction of the night time locking,” Bevan said. “We now don’t have an unlocked disabled toilet in Charmhaven. “Council’s response still doesn’t answer questions about what happens if people forget their MLAK key or more so, what are out of area visitors supposed to do if they need to access a disabled toilet on the Central Coast, especially if their local area does not utilise MLAK keys,” Bevan said.

Source: Emails, Aug 13-14 Brett Bevan, Charmhaven Tennis Centre Brett Sherar, Central Coast Council