When you have a child with a disability, your entire perception of the world shifts dramatically. Yes there are the obvious barriers, everything gets tighter and seems out of reach, but there are other things – like bathrooms – that come into focus with unimaginable clarity. Accessibility is universal.
Everyone can use a wheelchair ramp, but not everyone can use the stairs.
My favorite example: disabled parking. These spots are prevalent, coveted, and often marking half of the parking lots in America. But then go inside, and we only have one handicap bathroom stall – and its usually without a changing table! Same scenario, only with my husband, who is fabulously engaging as a father. We split almost everything parenting related 50/50. So when he traveled alone with our then 12-year-old daughter to an out-of-town doctor appointment or wanted to attend a wrestling tournament at a public school, his reality was every bit as harsh.
He couldn’t take her into a restroom without fear of ridicule, so he changed her in the car! Imagine the difficulty! In fact, if you have your own 12-year-old you can try this at home:
1. Have your child sit on a dining room chair in your bathroom.
2. Pick up your son or daughter while they remain limp—thus creating dead weight, then safely place him/her on the floor. Remember, they may not help you, other than placing their arms around your neck.
3. Re-enact changing a diaper. Keeping in mind that most tweens want to wear sweats or jeans…not easily maneuverable during a change.
4. Now pick him/her up and place back into a dining room chair.
Voila! How did you do? Parenting tip: have deodorant, powder, dry shampoo and a change of clothes ready for yourself, because this exercise is the equivalent of a 5K run.
This is a reality for too many American families in 2017. So when the debate surrounding transgender restrooms sparked controversy everywhere from Target to public schools, I couldn’t help but think, “FINALLY! Bathroom equality!”
Because here is the thing: we all want our privacy and dignity during this most intimate routine. Not everyone is raising a child in a wheelchair or is transgender, but we can all agree that none of us want to be humiliated.
Private family restrooms allow us privacy and the ability to pull out a washable travel rug to change our loved one in a clean environment without fear of contamination or ridicule – it is also nice to let them have a stretch since the confinement of the wheelchair typically only allows for one position.
Further, if we could be so bold to suggest that those adorable Koala changing tables be re-engineered to support an adult, or into a simple hip height countertop, it might make the budget a little tighter, but it would benefit everyone, not just the babies who didn’t get front row parking.