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Advocates Support Efforts To Install Public Changing Tables For Disabled Adults


If you've had a baby, you're probably familiar with this problem. You're out of the house. Your baby needs a diaper change, and you can't find a bathroom with a changing table. You've probably resorted to a public diaper changing. It's a little awkward for everyone involved. But when the person who needs that diaper change is a disabled or elderly adult, it can be worse than awkward.

Around the country, there are a handful of places that have installed private family restrooms equipped with adult changing tables. The airports in Phoenix, Baltimore and Orlando are a few. Sabrina Kimball of Tallahassee would like to see many more of them. She founded a group called Universal Changing Places and now joins us on the program. Welcome.

SABRINA KIMBALL: Yes, thank you so much for having me.

SIEGEL: I'd like you to tell us the story of how you encountered this problem with your teenage son, Greyson, who had bacterial meningitis, I guess, as a very small child.

KIMBALL: Yes, Greyson contracted bacterial meningitis when he was a baby. He was premature. And he developed it when he was 10 days old. And unfortunately, it caused a lot of developmental delays and cerebral palsy. So Greyson is non-ambulatory. He's now 19, and he weighs about almost 75 pounds. And this has become a big challenge for us as we go out in public to try to include him in different activities.

There is no safe clean place to change him. He has out - he outgrew the baby changing tables years ago. And what we're advocating for are powered height-adjustable adult changing tables to be added to family restrooms in different venues so that people have a safe clean place, and they're not resorting to either leaving the venue or laying their loved one on a public restroom floor.

SIEGEL: In the absence of such facilities, what do you do? What happens?

KIMBALL: Mainly I leave. If I can't find - like if I'm at a mall, I will look in dressing rooms and try to see if there might be a bench that we might awkwardly do a seat cover change, but most of the time we leave, you know, unless it's a major accident. And then, you know, we have had to take out our pad and try to do something on a floor, which is, you know, not something I enjoy doing at all.

SIEGEL: You spoke of a seat cover change.

KIMBALL: (Laughter) Oh, I'm sorry. That is my nickname. As Greyson's gotten older, instead of saying a diaper change, I call them seat covers. It just sounded better because he's older.

SIEGEL: What are you hoping to see? What would be a reasonable public response to this problem.

KIMBALL: What we're hoping to see is that more and more venues like our hospitals, our malls, our rest areas, our airports will add these to their family restrooms so that you do have this facility to change somebody. It seems like such a simple thing, but it's a major thing for people that have older adults that are non-ambulatory or have self-care issues.

SIEGEL: It would seem to me this eliminates both a terrible physical inconvenience you'd be posed with but also some embarrassment, I should think that it addresses.

KIMBALL: Yes. But also, it's an area of dignity for that person, too. I mean, how many people if you have an accident like that want to have to stay in that until they get home because there is no place to change them?

And I talked to a gentleman when I first started my campaign. He is a quadriplegic. And the one thing he mentioned to me when I first told him about what I was doing, he said, you don't want to know how many bathroom floors I've laid on in my life. And I was like - it just broke my heart. I'm thinking this is not right. This is something we can do something about.

SIEGEL: That is Sabrina Kimball speaking to us via Skype from Tallahassee. She's the founder of the Florida-based group Universal Changing Places. Thanks for talking with us.

KIMBALL: Well, thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.