People with physical and learning disabilities will find the Yorkshire Dales National Park more welcoming and accessible, owing to the opening of a spacious new public toilet in the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
Campaigner Debbie North posed on the loo alongside the National Park Authority’s Access and Recreation Officer Rachel Briggs to celebrate the first ‘Changing Places’ toilet in the National Park (see picture).
A Changing Places toilet is a step up from a standard ‘Disabled Toilet’. It contains extra equipment and space to allow people with profound learning disabilities, as well as people with physical disabilities such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, to use the toilet safely and comfortably.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which runs the museum, worked with the former Richmondshire District Council to secure Changing Places grant funding of £39,200 from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make the project possible.
The writer and motivational speaker, Debbie North, who runs the website Access the Dales, said: “It’s absolutely brilliant that we’ve got this facility. Hawes is in the centre of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, so it’s a perfect location.
“People will now start planning a visit to the National Park, knowing this facility is here. Before, although there are public toilets in the National Park, there was nothing like this. It’s such a big bonus.
“You are going to get people coming into the National Park now to see what it’s all about and to explore accessible Hawes. The toilet is here in a museum, which is wheelchair accessible as well as autism and dementia friendly. There’s the Creamery in Hawes which is also wheelchair accessible. You’ve got a beautiful walk on a stretch of the Pennine Way. And hopefully Access The Dales is going to have an all-terrain wheelchair in Hawes within weeks, so we’re making this a really accessible little market town.”
Member Champion for Corporate Management at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Julie Hutton, said: “Thank you to everyone who has been involved in getting this fantastic new facility into our museum. People don’t have to pay a museum admission charge to come in and use the Changing Places toilet; it’s free to use.. The toilet is by an entrance which is on the same level as our car park.
“Next year we are planning to open a Changing Places toilet by our visitor centre in Grassington, too. Along with the great work being done by local hospitality businesses, and that being done by Highways Authorities, as well as our rangers to improve surfaces and gates on rights of way, we are making the Yorkshire Dales National Park accessible to all.”
The Changing Places toilet will be open at the same time as the Dales Countryside Museum is open; for most of the year the museum is open between 10am to 5pm, seven days a week.