Bendigo shopping precincts lack the infrastructure people need to shop comfortably, according to the regional manager of a local disability service.
Scope’s Loddon Mallee regional manager Mary Sullivan said some shoppers in wheelchairs were limited because there’s hardly any fully equipped disabled toilets near most shopping strips and centres.
In fact, the only fully equipped public toilet within city limits is in Eaglehawk – a fair way to travel from shopping hubs in Bendigo, Kangaroo Flat, Strathdale and Epsom.
“There’s a really big lack in Bendigo. If you need a motorised hoist and a change table to go to the restroom, you can only be out shopping for as long as you can go without needing a toilet,” she said.
She said the need to plan around toilet breaks impacted on people’s capacity to live flexibly and independently.
Kim Mannolito likes to be out and about.
But the lack of fully equipped public toilets can be a problem.
“Everyone else gets to go to the toilet when they need to. It’s a human right,” she said.
“If you had a car accident, you’d be amazed at what’s not out there.
“I’m not being ungrateful, but there should be more options for anyone who is in a wheelchair.”
The City of Greater Bendigo’s building and property services manager’s Andy Walker said the council was not responsible for toilets in stores and privately owned shopping centres.
However, he said those using council-owned public toilets could rest assured the problem should be slowly solved.
Mr Walker said the public restrooms of the future could feature two types of disabled toilets – one fitted with handrails and the other with a hoist and change table.
While he said there was often no legal requirement to do build disabled toilets with extra features, over the past three or four years many councils had begun adding them in the hope they would make life easier for the disabled and their carers.
“We do need to provide for people with all sorts of disabilities, from walking frames to wheelchairs,” he said.
Last year the council committed to installing hoists and change tables whenever they built or renovated its public buildings and toilet blocks.
But this does not mean every council-owned public toilet in the city is set to get a brand new hoist and change table. The changes will only apply if the council has decided to build or renovate a new structure.
Mr Walker said there were no plans to begin any builds in the next 12 months.
So for now, Mrs Mannolito may have to keep shopping in between toilet breaks.