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A city for everyone: ICC Belfast's accessibility enhancements will increase participation

Posted 19th Jul, 2022

Broghán Donnelly

ICC Belfast, Belfast’s only purpose-built convention centre, has announced various accessibility enhancements across its site to support increased participation, and deliver on its values as a venue that celebrates diversity and champions inclusivity.


The venue recently hosted more than 500 delegates as part of the Harkin International Disability Employment Summit, a legacy of which is a new, permanent Changing Places in the Riverside Foyer, the installation of which was funded by Belfast City Council. Changing Places toilets are larger accessible toilets for severely disabled people, with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches and space for carers.

Today, Changing Places Awareness Day, celebrates the successes of ongoing campaigning to install Changing Places toilets in public places and raise awareness about the importance of such facilities for the thousands of severely disabled people who need them. 

Sinead Grimes, Director of Physical Programmes at Belfast City Council, said:

We are proud to work alongside ICC Belfast to deliver the needed addition of a Changing Places toilet, the second for the city centre with one already installed at City Hall and the Council’s 8th Changing Places facility across the city. We are talking about a fundamental human need, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that our city caters to the needs of as many people as possible.

“Belfast City Council, as part of the new Belfast tourism strategy, will also be rolling out an accessible tourism programme to build capacity and skills within the tourism sector and we will continue to utilise the Harkin Summit to learn from global best practice - a catalyst to further progress future policy work and initiatives in this area.”

SYNC Living, a company that supplies specialist products to support people with impaired mobility, installed the Changing Places toilet at ICC Belfast.

Andrew Smyth, Business Development Manager at SYNC Living, said:

“People living with profound disabilities need more space and specialised equipment to be able to use toilet facilities in safety, comfort and with dignity."

Not having access to suitable facilities means that many people cannot enjoy the same opportunities as others. With that in mind, it’s encouraging to see Belfast City Council and ICC Belfast come together to diversify their offering to cater for people with complex needs.

However, ICC Belfast recognises that its events need to be holistically accessible and so along with the Changing Places facility, it invested in additional enhancements and upgrades – all now permanent legacies of the Harkin Institute selecting the venue as its 2022 Summit location.

Over 80 percent of ICC Belfast staff have completed JAM card training. JAM, which stands for Just a Minute, is a concept developed by social enterprise NOW Group, that supports customers to communicate their accessibility needs discreetly, highlighting that they may need a little extra time and patience during their visit.

In addition, a Social Narrative Accessibility Video has been created which supports delegates to arrive at the venue and feel comfortable knowing that they can understand how to navigate their surroundings with the support of subtitles.

Julia Corkey, Chief Executive of ICC Belfast, said: 

“As we, and our partners, collaborate to attract business conferences and exhibitions to Belfast, it is vital our city continues to make a collective effort to be as welcoming a space as we can be.

A space for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their needs. We are committed to investing in our venue on an ongoing basis to ensure that ICC Belfast continues to be accessible and is a place that celebrates diversity and champions inclusion.

“Belfast is a wonderful city, renowned for its hospitality – and it is this level of care and expertise that has allowed ICC Belfast to continue to host significant events on behalf of distinguished organisations."

Thanks to this investment by Belfast City Council, we are better equipped to fulfil our ambitious goals and attract global events to the city.

Continuing to attract conferencing and business events to Belfast is considered a critical driver in the region’s economic recovery.

According to Tourism Northern Ireland’s recently launched Integrated Strategy for Business Events in Northern Ireland, it is estimated that the sector could deliver £209 million in direct economic impact, and up to 2000 new jobs by 2030.

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