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How a toilet has made a Welsh beach accessible to people with disabilities

One of Swansea’s most popular beaches has been made more accessible to people with disabilities after a £85,000 investment in a new changing places toilet.

The facility is the first of its kind on Gower and is designed to help people with profound physical and learning disabilities to access Caswell Bay.

17-year-old Kai Lewis has cerebral palsy and is a keen surfer at the beach. Mum Leanne says the new facilities will make visiting easier.

It’s going to make a big difference. I change Kai in the car park every week. Kai’s a lot bigger than when we first started surfing so it’s getting a lot harder. And it’s going to be a lot more dignifying for Kai.

There’s a lot of children and adults who can’t actually stand and transfer themselves so changing is very difficult. Even getting on a standard toilet is difficult so obviously having the changing bed there is going to make a big difference.

Kai gets so much out of it. You’ve only got to see him on the surfboard to see how much he gets out of it. And why shouldn’t he have a sport he does every week and enjoys like everybody else.

– Leanne Lewis, Kai’s mother.

Kai is able to surf using a seated tandem surfboard provided by Surfability UK, a local business that provides surfing lessons for people with disabilities.

It’s based at Caswell Bay and founder Ben Clifford says the changing places facility is an important step in making Welsh beaches accessible for everyone.

This summer surfability has provided surfing lessons for more than 40 wheelchair users as well as others who need lots of assistance with changing.

Access to outdoor spaces should be for everyone and this facility is an important step towards making the beach inclusive.

– Ben Clifford, Surfability UK

The Changing Places unit is fitted with a ceiling hoist, shower, changing bed and toilet.

Swansea Council hopes that it will improve the experience of visitors and act as a model for other parts of Wales to replicate.

“We are making Caswell Bay a more accessible destination. The Changing Places improvement to Caswell Bay is very welcome indeed, especially to those with a disability.

Two Mobi-chair floating wheelchairs are available to allow disabled visitors to access the water. They are free of charge and must be pre-booked with the council.” Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism.

These improvements were partly funded by the Welsh Government who hope it will encourage more tourists to the area.

An estimated 250,000 disabled visitors are severely restricted in their choices of destinations and activities across the UK.

The Caswell Bay project will change the lives of thousands of visitors with severe disabilities and their carers, and attract many more to the area.

It will improve Gower's reputation as an accessible destination and reach out to a new audience.

– Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism