Locked public toilets a 'disgrace'
A FORMER disability services worker claims it is a ‘disgrace and discrimination’ that public disabled toilets in Ballina are kept locked.
West Ballina resident Graeme Jackson said he was at Fawcett Park earlier this month when he noticed a woman in a wheelchair trying to get into the disabled section of the public toilets at the end of Moon Street.
But they were locked, and there was no notice about how to get a key.
“She’d travelled up here from Victoria, and it was obviously pretty upsetting for her,” Mr Jackson said.
“When I contacted the council about it, I was told that people who wanted to use disabled toilets had to get a special key, which can be used in Ballina and other sites across NSW.”
This is known as the Master Locksmith Access Key system (MLAK).
Keys are available from any locksmith for people with disabilities or those with written authority.
But Mr Jackson said it was not good enough.
He made a formal complaint to Ballina Shire Council’s general manager, Paul Hickey, and suggested the council review its policy on disabled public toilets.
In an emailed response to Mr Jackson, Mr Hickey said the MLAK system was introduced ‘in response to requests from the disabled people within our community’.
However, Mr Jackson said he was not satisfied with Mr Hickey’s response, and has since made a complaint to People With a Disability Australia.
“It is just illogical that the men’s and women’s toilets are kept open all day, but the disabled toilets are locked,” he said.
Cr David Wright said the MLAK system was introduced when he was mayor in about 2000.
“The council has an access committee made up of the mayor, a staff member and disabled people in the community,” he said.
“This group wanted to introduce the MLAK system.
“The disabled toilets were being used for drug taking and in other inappropriate ways, because they’re bigger.
“This wasn’t rushed through. We talked about it for months.
“Not every disabled toilet in the shire has this system, just some of them. It’s designed to protect the facilities.”