Adult-sized changing tables are something the general public has no idea they need until they need the space. Being unconscious doesn’t make you a terrible person. I didn’t know it until the first time I placed my 5-year-old daughter with multiple disabilities on a baby changing table in a public restroom and watched her begin to sag under her weight. At that point, it became a glaring necessity. What were we going to do? The need felt heavy.
Our church family was the first to see the need and fill it. I shared our situation with friends at church. Within a few months, church leaders were asking, “What do you need?” “Send us links” and “Where do you want it?” The glorious adult-size changer has appeared.
I remember my children and our pastor’s wife sitting together to take pictures. What a relief to know that our family can continue to be in community at church. We could be there for the entire Sunday morning service, Bible studies and activities and even stay for a meeting afterwards without having to go home. . .
All because of that adult-sized changing table.
The kids could participate and I could serve in the Vacation Bible School. . . because of this table. We could invite other friends from my daughter’s class at school who also needed a space to exchange. . . because of this table.
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In other environments, such as commercial areas, parks and playgrounds, public swimming pools, restaurants and rest areas, the challenge remained. We were so excited that our new Target had a family bathroom until we got there and saw the baby changing table. This was one of the first places I laid a blanket on the floor to change my daughter. I cried lifting her out of her wheelchair and holding her as I knelt down and laid her on the blanket on the dirty bathroom floor.
Our family loves to travel, but long trips have become rare because of the lack of spaces for adults. Most families just get off the interstate when their child needs to use the bathroom and park at the nearest gas station or fast-food restaurant. That convenience is simply not available to people like my daughter.
Do you travel with a folding massage table and are looking for large empty parking lots to unload, assemble and create your own clothes changing space? This is a method we use to make travel possible. I longed for the day when we could walk into a rest area in any state and she could access a locker room and bathroom and have those basic needs met like everyone else.
As my daughter grew older, I realized that a larger wall-mounted table still doesn’t work for everyone. It’s one of those things I didn’t know until I tried the challenge. Just because I can lift my 100-pound daughter off the table now doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do that forever. A big table on the wall doesn’t help an adult who needs to be seated first instead of being lifted. Height-adjustable tables have the most universal design, which means they can be used by everyone. They can be lowered for wheelchair transfers or for an adult to sit on and then raised for caregiver support.
The need is growing.
Adult changing rooms cater not only to those who are born with a disability, but also to our senior adult population, who may develop a need for a changing room with room for a caregiver to support them as they age.
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It was big news for families like mine when the Tennessee legislature this year passed $1 million in funding for height-adjustable, adult-sized changing tables. Our Department of Transportation has committed to installing adult-sized tables at every rest stop and welcome center for years to come. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has made a similar commitment to install them in all state parks.
All of this happened because families like mine shared our stories, time and time again, with policymakers, reporters, and local community and business leaders. I’m proud that Tennessee is leading this issue, but I hope that many other states will start having similar political discussions.
I wasn’t part of the fight to make standard baby changing tables in public restrooms, but I suppose there was a similar effort. Now, we hope to see them everywhere and get angry when we don’t. The need for adult exchange space is no different. These tables also accommodate babies, but also give privacy and dignity to adults who need them and their caregivers.
If you’re interested in learning more and getting involved, visit ChangingSpacesCampaign.org.
Originally posted on Tennessean.com