Since it opened, I have been at the SSE Arena Belfast (formerly the Odyssey Arena) at least once a year. In fact, I narrowly missed their very first concert as my spinal surgery was scheduled that day.
I have seen everything in the arena. From sporting victory for the Belfast Giants ice hockey team, to dancing the whole night away even with a broken foot, and the dramatic night that One Direction cancelled their concert at the last minute – the only time they ever cancelled!
Living with a muscle wasting condition is never a straightforward ride, and for me getting to gigs and other events at the arena meant a night away from the reality. It is also a night to express who you truly are, and to simply let off a bit of energy when it’s needed!
However, up until now one thing was missing – I couldn’t safely eat or drink what I wanted as the accessible toilets did not have a hoist or changing bench.
I am delighted to say that the SSE Arena have now installed a Changing Places registered toilet on the first floor of the building, in the immediate vicinity of the lift and main first floor accessible seating platforms.
Changing Places toilets are gradually popping up across Northern Ireland, but this is by far the most important addition we have had here to date. The SSE Arena can have almost 11 thousand people in attendance, and with several accessible seating options available there’s always a number of disabled people in the building – and a Changing Places is going to transform the experience for us all.
While I am sure and certain something will pop up in between, my next visit is in November with my nephew in tow. To be able to eat and drink what I want to, and not need to worry about the next time I will be near a toilet is so exciting I am already geared up to go!
For most people, toilets are there and we all expect them to be in large public buildings for us to use. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case for those who need a Changing Places toilet. To now have the installations growing in Northern Ireland, and to finally have one in what is a huge entertainment hub is brilliant!
Trailblazers has now moved to pan-disability charity Whizz-Kidz (September 2020).