Saturday, October 24, 2020

Why This Sign Means Inaccessibility for My Son With a Disability

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I hate this sign Disability. Every time I see it, I hate it more. And it’s not for the reasons you might think.I don’t hate women, or wheelchair users. I’m not a transgender woman and made to feel I don’t belong there.

It’s because my 7-year-old son has Disability cerebral palsy, and uses a wheelchair. He lacks the upper-body strength and torso control to use the toilet independently, or even with my support, despite the occasional availability of handrails. It’s because he needs to be Disability changed, and there is no place to put him other than the floor. It’s because I have to lay my son down on disgusting bathroom floors,  It’s because as he ages and grows wiser, it is getting increasingly uncomfortable for him and I to go together to a room set up for girls and women.

I was naïve, I admit.

I thought that just sharing our struggle would be enough to inspire Disability people to support Changing Places. I thought when I told people about exposing him to these germs and situations, people would understand. I thought sharing about how we have changed him in the back of our car, exposed to the elements and trying to keep his privacy, that people would “get it” and help make improvements for people with similar problems. I thought people just needed to become aware, and they would do the “right thing” to make his world accessible on their own.

It was suggested to me by an airport representative that we could use the nursing room at a major local airport, as there is a bench there.  As I was once a nursing mom, I can tell you how “well” this would be received. These rooms were designed to give babies a comfortable and sanitary place to eat away from the smells and germs of the restroom. I am not willing to subject my son to the scowls of disapproving mothers on top of the embarrassment he already endures.

It’s not just us.

There are people who have said that even a changing table is extravagant or gluttonous. That we should “suck it up.” That we should simply adapt to the world and not expect the world to cater to us. That we shouldn’t expect large businesses or locales to finance changes for just a few. But we are not just a few. We are 4% of the population in the U.S. alone.

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