School’s Inaccessibility Causes Bathroom Blunder

            It was meant to be a very special day at my daughter’s school. And, for the most part, it was. Her school recently had a day where the students were encouraged to invite friends and family members to watch a short concert and enjoy a reception afterwards. To my knowledge, I’m the only parent/caregiver in a power chair. I’ve always been impressed with the school’s accessibility. The floorplans are laid out where everything flows and if there’s a dip in levels, ramps are in place. There is also an elevator connecting the two floors. Until the day of the concert, I’d assumed the school was completely wheelchair accessible.

            I’m on a medication that acts as an extremely heavy diuretic in order to flush my body of its spinal fluid (my body no longer absorbs its spinal fluid so the danger is its ability to build up in/around the brain and spinal column). During the first song the children sang, I started feeling as though I needed to go to the bathroom. But didn’t want to make a scene leaving as I was sitting in front of the bleachers and would also have to get my Service Dog up and out with me. So, I sat there thinking I’d just make a quick getaway when I could. But each song led into another until I was hurting, I had to pee so bad! Finally, the principal dismissed the students and families and we all bled out into the hallway. I quickly went to a bathroom but upon opening the outer door, I realized I couldn’t even get my chair through. So, I backed into the hallway and headed towards another bathroom. This time, my chair got in, but there were no stalls big enough for me to use (not only needing to fit my power chair but also my Service Dog). I left that bathroom and saw some kids in the hallway. I asked them where there was a handicap bathroom and they pointed me in another direction. I got so excited until I realized the stall was long but not wide, meaning I’d drive up right in front of the toilet and need to spin around to use the bathroom – impossible.

            I grew increasingly uneasy, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. How hard was it to find an accessible bathroom? Why was this simple need so difficult to fulfill? I knew of one more bathroom I could try so quickly made my way there. And, there it was! A stall big enough for me and my Dog!! I pulled up beside the commode and shut the chair off, relieved to finally be able to use the bathroom! And then I reached for the transfer bar… that wasn’t there. My heart sunk; my face fell. I turned my chair back on and left the bathroom, tears forming in my eyes. In the 15-20 minutes I’d been searching for a place to pee, the other women who’d been lined up at different bathrooms were no longer there, having been able to easily satisfy a basic human function. I felt alone and inadequate, separate and different.

            I went to the main office and as I began explaining my dilemma to the secretary, I started sobbing. My pelvic area hurt; my pride hurt; my dignity was aching as well. She didn’t know what to do so she called the school nurse. The nurse came to the front office and tried to calm me down. I was told that she could help me use the bathroom but that was not the solution I was looking for. She told me she did this all the time when she worked in hospitals; I responded that I wasn’t in a hospital; I’m an adult mother who uses the restroom by myself and this was unacceptable to me. But there obviously was no other way for me to relieve myself so I went with the nurse down the hallway, passing students and their guests, towards the bathroom. I felt humiliated. It seemed like it was glaringly apparent to everyone who saw us enter that I’m incapable of using the bathroom unaided. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. It wasn’t that I had limitations in this area; the school did. But I wasn’t going to stop each person I passed to explain the situation; I simply swallowed my pride, my dignity, my capable self and let the nurse come into the bathroom with me.

            What ultimately had to happen for me to go the bathroom was the nurse not only helping me stand but her pulling down my pants and underwear while I held onto the top of the stall. She then had to pull my underwear and pants back up for me and help me back into the chair. To say I was mortified is putting it lightly. This should not have happened. There should have been transfer bars in the stall to allow me the dignity to use the bathroom privately just as every other student and adult did that day. My daughter and I are already different enough, and I was heartbroken that students had seen their nurse go into the bathroom with me – I didn’t want my having to pee end with negative consequences for my little girl. Kids can be cruel. Furthermore, the kids see their parents and adult friends in roles of authority, control and an all-around sense of what being a grown-up means. I want them to see me that way, too. Because it’s true – I am in a position of authority. And while we as adults don’t truly have control, it’s a natural assumption of a child to think that we do.

            Once I finished using the restroom, I had missed nearly the entire reception. I found my daughter and sat with her for about five minutes while she finished eating. She wanted to know where I had been and why I hadn’t joined her until that moment. I told her I had to use the restroom and she exclaimed how long it had taken me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the nurse had to help me; she probably would have been confused as to why. She knows I can go to the bathroom by myself.

            I plan on meeting with the Dean of students. I intend to discuss this event with him and suggest necessary changes. I want this to be a moment of education for the school. This was not something that happened because I’m disabled. This happened because the school does not have the adequate and acceptable structures in place for someone like me. I may be their first disabled parent but I’m pretty sure I wont be their last. And I don’t want another parent to feel like I felt emotionally, mentally and physically that day. I don’t want them to miss out on an activity with their child because the school is not equipped for them.

 

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Saltine Meets Needs of Entire Public

If you live in or are traveling to the Nashville, TN area I encourage you to try a new restaurant in town, Saltine. Saltine has an incredible menu of seafood dishes that can delight the tastebuds of any age group. The spunky yet elegant atmosphere should appeal to a wide cross-section of the community.

But, for me, the restaurant’s best feature is its accessibility! It doesn’t matter what type of mobility equipment you use (or dont!), you’ll be able to enjoy your complete dining experience. Not only does Saltine have plenty of accessible parking spaces (including 2 van accessible spots) but the ramp into the restaurant is easy to access and navigate.

Need to use the restroom? No problem at Saltine! Even for the disabled

Upon first glance when I opened the door, the stall looked small – I use a large power chair and also must include my Service Dog. However, both of us were able to fit with space left over and the layout of the stall made transitioning easy.

The sink area made me so happy which only wheelchair users may understand – there was plenty of room for me to pull up to the sink, with my legs underneath. The height of the faucet, soap and paper towels was also within my reach – something that is many times hard to find when I’m out in public.

Two other accessible features that are rarely seen (by my eye, please take note) were the hook for purses, coats, etc found in the bathroom stall and the changing table being of a height to accommodate wheelchair users.

All-in-all, I was extremely impressed with Saltine for their tasty food, fun yet relaxing decor and commendable accessibility. I hope you’ll give them a try!

Saltine is located at 1918 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203

Walkin’ & Rollin’ Thanks to ADA!

ada-logo

Before I became disabled, I knew what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was and the reason it was implemented. I understood on a cognitive level why it was important. But when it’s significance became personal to me, the journey from the head to the heart was complete. Now, as a parent with a disability, the ADA is vital in the day-to-day lives of me and my child. For the purposes of simplicity, I’m going to focus on the area of the ADA which most effects me as a disabled parent – the compliance of public buildings, parks, venues, etc. to grant me complete participation in the activities which the business provides. Public places are required to make sure that I’m able to share experiences with my able-bodied peers in equal measure or as close to it as possible. I’m not to be denied the ability to either access or use public facilities.

As a parent, these ADA requirements mean the most to me. I’ve dealt with feelings of guilt a lot as a disabled parent. I want the most typical childhood possible for my daughter; I don’t want my physical limitations to limit her engagement or enjoyment in kid-centered activities; I’ve worried about her having consequences for something neither of us has any control over. Unlike my able-bodied friends who are themselves parents, I’ve shown up to a few birthday parties for my child’s friends and not been able to enter. We’ve arrived at parks and have not been able to play on all of the equipment because I could not access the areas. My daughter is currently 5-years-old so you can imagine the disappointment and, in the past, the lack of understanding why we had to leave without doing what we’d gone there to do. Each time this has happened, my heart has broken for her and I’ve felt nearly crushed by guilt and the realization that it’s all my body’s fault. There have been times I’ve managed to push through the pain and mobility difficulties so that she can have fun but those times have been rare.

Handicap_Accessible_SignWith accessibility issues becoming more widely recognized and businesses making necessary structural changes in order to meet the needs of the entire public, my daughter and I are able to do more and more. We’ve taken advantage of modifications at the skating rink so I could roll along with her on the rink; we go to theaters that have wheelchair seating in the front or on the sides as opposed to in the very back where our view is hardly worth the price of admission; we go to a local park that’s well-paved around the playground so I can keep an eye on her while she plays; we go to the library; and recently spent a week at the beach together thanks to the city’s efforts to make the area more accessible!! Also, at birthday parties that are held in bouncy-place type venues, arcades and other exciting kid-friendly places I’m able to enjoy the fun right along with my daughter and the other parents.

I would like to see stricter ADA guidelines and enforcement in the future. However, our society has come a long way and I feel grateful to live during a time when awareness, advocacy and education concerning the disability community are flourishing. My hope is that I can be a part of the ongoing changes and positive impacts made for people with disabilities. I hope an able-bodied person will read this blog and try to empathize with some of the feelings and situations I’ve mentioned so that they might understand the importance of the ADA not only on a cognitive level but on a spiritual and emotional one as well.

Thanks to the ADA I have rights, I’m protected and I’m free to be who I am – not stunted and fettered because of what I have, a disability. Because of the ADA, my daughter and I are able to enjoy family outings, have fun and “walk & roll!”

 

**This blog post first appeared on The Disabled Parenting Project – http://disabledparenting.com/walking-rolling-daughter-thanks-ada/ **