A sensory Room and Changing Places toilet created in loving memory of local girl, Emma Whiteley, has opened at move Urmston, with Emma’s family and special guests, including Councillor Liz Patel, attending its launch ceremony.

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Emma passed away in February 2019 aged just 25, after battling a rare genetic disorder called Sanfilippo syndrome MPS 111 C her entire life. She loved music, rainbows and bright colours, and sensory experiences brought Emma much pleasure and happiness during her short life.

Ashlea Whiteley, Emma’s sister says: “When Emma was young, she was into everything and we would spend hours together playing in the garden making mud pies. As she got older we still spent hours together but what we did was different. We would listen to and sing to music, watch Disney films or set her room up as her very own sensory room, just be together.”

Emma’s Room has been designed specifically for families and community groups/schools to enjoy, especially those with disabilities. The room has a series of sensory lights, bubble tubes, colour soft play mats, and an adjoining Changing Places accessible toilet.

Changing Places toilets give disabled people and their carers the space and equipment they need to have the confidence to leave their homes and go out.

The government has made the installation of Changing Places toilets compulsory in hundreds of new public buildings in a bid to help bring major, life-enhancing freedoms to more than 250,000 people who need them.

Lily Whiteley, Emma’s mother and disability campaigner says: “Emma loved to get outside and see people and life, but the only place in the whole of Trafford with a Changing Places toilet was the Trafford Centre. This meant enjoying any public places together as a family was almost impossible.

Although I am pleased the government has brought in legislation to make it the law for new buildings to have Changing Places toilets, I will continue to fight for similar legislation for ALL pre-existing public buildings.

“The Changing Places toilets have extra equipment and space to allow people with disabilities to use them safely and conformably, giving people with disabilities and their carers the freedom to leave their homes.

“Loneliness and depression is common place for people with disabilities and their families/carers. Emma’s Room, with the adjoining Changing Places toilet, is a special place for special people to come together and connect.”

Lily goes on to say: “We have worked hard to make this sensory room and Changing Places toilet a reality and a magical space. We hope the sensory room will shine rainbow-coloured lights over those that use it. Emma loved music; her eyes would light up whenever she heard her favourite song. Whenever I see a rainbow it reminds me of the love and joy Emma brought to our lives. Emma’s memory will live on through the sharing of this wonderful sensory room with others.

“You never fully get over losing your child, and I live day by day. My grief is an extension of love, and I loved my darling girl very much. Emma was such a determined young woman who battled her rare condition. We all miss her terribly.”

Councillor for Sale Moor, Executive Member Leisure and Culture, Liz Patel says: “The new sensory room at move Urmston will not only provide a lasting tribute to the wonderful Emma, but will support many disabled people and their families for years to come. I would like to thank Lily for all her hard work in helping us create this space. We are determined to ensure our leisure facilities are developed in an inclusive way that benefits all Trafford residents.”

The opening ceremony, which was attended by many of Emma’s family and friends, as well as Cllr Liz Patel and Jo Cherrett, Trafford Leisure’s CEO, included Emma’s family cutting a ribbon, some short speeches and light refreshments for guests.

Lily explains: “We have given lots of input into the design of the room and it’s been a long time coming, but today, at the opening ceremony, is the first time we have seen it fully finished. It’s amazing. I’m very overwhelmed. It’s lovely to see it completed – my daughter will never be forgotten.”

Jo Cherrett, CEO, Trafford Leisure says: “Trafford Leisure loved working with the Whiteley’s and I have personally learnt so much from them in helping to create Emma’s Room with a Changing Places toilet.

I understand so much better the daily challenges that people living with disabilities and their carers face in accessing leisure time together. I’ve done this by truly listening to Emma’s family and by putting our local community at the heart of everything we do.

“Leisure facilities and physical activity need to be made accessible, safe and must not discriminate. Leisure opportunities must be made inclusive and welcoming for all, just like Emma’s Room.

“We will be introducing Changing Places toilets to all of our leisure centres over the next few years as part of their refurbishment plans.

“Emma’s Room looks and feels amazing and it holds a special place in all our hearts. It’s wonderful to welcome Emma’s family and special guests, to honour and remember Emma, to share stories of her life, and to build a legacy in her memory.”