A group representing people with disabilities and their families has launched a campaign for access to improved toilet facilities.

Current regulations require buildings to have "adequate sanitary provision" for those with disabilities, but the majority do not fully meet the needs of many who require them, according to steering group Changing Places Ireland.

The organisation is calling on the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to make such facilities mandatory in public buildings.

Aisling McNiffe is part of the steering group campaigning for the advanced facility. Her son Jack is a 15-year-old wheelchair-user with Downs Syndrome in Co Kildare, who also has a rare auto-inflammatory disease.

Ms McNiffe described her experience in public toilets as "degrading" as her son is dependent on nappies and pads. She says a registered Changing Places facility is required to change him.

"Going out and about is difficult at the best of times because of accessibility ... his skin would be of poor quality so he needs to be changed straight away or he'd get really severe nappy rash."

A Changing Places bathroom has an adult-sized changing bench, a heist and a high ceiling with space on both sides of the toilet. There are currently 15 such facilities in the country.

"Unfortunately I've had to use the bathroom floor of the accessible toilet because there isn't a changing bench for him," Ms McNiffe said. "It's degrading and it's worrying ... it's a basic human necessity for everyone to need a toilet."

Although Jack is a little taller than a toddler, he is still too tall for a regular baby-changing table, according to Ms McNiffe.

"To be constantly lifting for 15 years, my back is wrecked, and anybody who has a child with a physical difficulty ... it's very difficult."

Changing Places Ireland has a list of registered toilets on its website www.changingplaces.ie.

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