Mom Advocates for Inclusive and Accessible Restrooms
I am a dedicated wife and mother of three children and a passionate activist for individuals and families impacted by disabilities. My eight-year-old son, Ethan, has autism and sensory processing disorder along with a chronic medical condition. He loves to play outside with his twin brother and older sister and he has the biggest dinosaur collection you will ever see!
We love to go out into the community as a family which includes going to the park, attending sensory-friendly events, the movies, and supporting each other at sporting events such as Miracle League, flag football, and cheerleading. Sadly, our community outings often have to be cut short as Ethan requires assistance in the restroom and most do not accommodate his needs.
Ethan is too large for baby changing tables, and we are left changing him on a beach towel on cold, dirty restroom floors or in the back of the car in a busy parking lot. These options are undignified and inhumane. More times than not, our family must go home feeling upset and defeated.
As a result, my husband, Jesse, and I feel isolated because we can’t enjoy time out as a family for long periods. Ethan is forced home early sometimes because he gets overwhelmed and overstimulated by the world around him, so heading home because of lack of bathroom accommodations is especially frustrating.
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I was inspired to share Ethan’s struggle on Love Hope & Autism, a Facebook page I developed in honor of my son to create autism awareness and share resources with other families. I also created a petition asking for signatures from people who support the need for adult changing tables.
With more than 15,000 signatures, I quickly realized how many families with special needs would benefit from larger changing tables including those affected by spina bifida, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson’s, MS, and the elderly.
After doing some research, I learned about the Changing Spaces Campaign, a nationwide movement that consists of parents and caregivers advocating for adult changing tables in family restrooms. Changing Spaces was created after hearing about Changing Places in the United Kingdom.
The UK have been diligent over the past 10 years and currently have over 1,000 accessible restrooms with adult changing tables and hoyer lifts. Unfortunately, we are not having the same luck in the United States as some consider the lift a potential liability. The lift is still being discussed, especially for new projects/buildings, but the main focus is on the height adjustable adult-sized changing table.
I am now the coordinator for the Changing Spaces Pennsylvania chapter, and I continue to advocate and work with local organizations to install adult-sized changing tables. I am also currently working with state legislators to get a bill passed for Pennsylvania which will require certain places (airports, sports arenas, museums, highway rest stops, and more) to have at least one height adjustable adult-sized changing table in a family restroom.
My goal is not only to get the changing table bill passed in Pennsylvania but to spread awareness. I want to see communities become more inclusive and accessible as every person deserves privacy and dignity. Children and adults who are differently abled deserve better. The adult-sized tables will allow them to be active out in the community and enjoying time with their families for longer periods of time.
This article was featured in Issue 89 – Solutions for Today and Tomorrow with ASD