People on Barra will be among the first on the Western Isles to benefit from the installation of a ‘changing places’ toilets, which gives carers and those in their care a full range of equipment to cope with their toileting needs.

This is a part of a project in Northbay by Garadh a Bagh a Tuath which is a non-profit organisation producing and selling vegetables, flowers and trees whilst offering therapeutic horticultural and other activities to disabled people, at the same time providing a sustainable resource.

A grant from the Big Lottery Fund of £830,000 was the major financial boost needed to develop the new facility, while CalMac, Scottish Government Transport and Hitrans have all contributed to including the first ‘changing places’ toilet in the Western Isles.  This will meet the needs of their disabled visitors and volunteers at the site.

Changing Places toilets meet the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well as people with other physical disabilities such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

These toilets provide the right equipment including a height adjustable adult-sized changing table, a tracking hoist system, adequate space for a disabled person and carer, a peninsular WC with room either side and a safe and clean environment including tear off paper to cover the bench, a large waste bin and a non-slip floor.

The big project to create a Covid-safe indoor/outdoor working area, a quiet room and a top-specification preparation kitchen for the Garadh café has been held back during the pandemic, but completion is now imminent, with a plan soon to be put in place to open in spring 2021, whenever it is safe to do so.

Well-ventilated, light and fully accessible, it has been completed by Glasgow and Western Isles-based Coastal Homes, who offer a full design and build service using the most up-to-date materials and methods.

Other funding contributions came from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, LEADER and HIE and in mid-November the new-build and vegetable preparation processes got a clean bill of health from the CnES environmental health officer.

Volunteers then worked hard to carry furniture, PPE and essential supplies over to the spacious new building ready for enrolment of volunteers for another year of therapeutic gardening.

Horticultural tutor Helen Mackinnon said: “We had reached the point before where people couldn’t come to the Garadh because we couldn’t accommodate them all, but we are looking forward to launching a café and garden space which are completely accessible to all.  We are intending to be a community café which reflects what we grow, so that as much as possible is fresh and seasonal and grown by us.”