I did it in the back of a car…it wasn’t very comfortable!
I did it on someone else’s bed…I hope they never find out!
I did it once behind some bushes…it was not my finest moment!
I regularly do it at speed for fear of being caught…
I am always prepared for it, he wants it far more than I do
But I always, always do it out of love.
Have I got your attention now?
Of course I am referring to changing my disabled son’s nappy!
I live in a country where disability is recognised. There are government benefits and laws protecting and supporting both children and adults with disabilities. We have disabled access rights, laws regarding discrimination and an education system that should in theory meet the needs of all children.
So why do I still find myself in this twenty first century in a developing country changing my seven year old child in the back of my car or even behind a bush? That is a very good question!
Most buildings now have ramp access where possible and public buildings ought to have accessible toilets. My son is a wheelchair user but he can also walk. His disability is not openly visible. He is unable to speak but you would not know that by looking at him. He is two thirds of my height and wearing incontinence products for a small adult. It is very challenging to clean and change him now while he is standing upright. But still the majority of disabled toilets have no facilities to lie such a child on.
Disabled toilets are mostly designed for wheelchair users who are able to access a standard toilet seat with small adaptations such as handles and pull string flushes. Many are also used as baby changing facilities therefore from a business perspective doubling the use of the room. The only advantage this gives me is that there MAY be a proper nappy disposal bin, but there may not be.
I am long past the stage of being able to lie my son on a pull out table. He outgrew that before his second birthday. He is now at an age and height where questions are asked if I even take him into the ladies with me. Though I struggle to often close the door on some ladies cubicles never mind trying to fit me, a large changing bag, and my seven year old son in too! It is most unpleasant for everyone for me to do that.
I have a key (and rightly so) for disabled toilets. Most times this helps in being able to at least get any toilet open. Why should I have to take my child who is perhaps smelling and screaming to a member of staff to ask to access what should be a public right? Why should he be treated any different to any able bodied person?
I know there is a lot of campaigns out just now to bring accessible toilets up to a certain standard and have better access to these facilities. This is fantastic! But we also need to educate. I have had stares, rude names and inappropriate questions from strangers just for using a toilet! My son may not understand but what if he did? His disability is no-one else’s business. He may need me to support his needs for many years to come and if so that is what I will do. That could potentially mean changing someone taller than me. Does that matter? I suppose people just assume that the sign shows a wheelchair and therefore I should only take him in in the days he is in his chair. That is a bit like assuming you can only go to the toilet on the days you have a red coat on! Pretty crazy really.
I changed my son once again today in the back of my car. It was not pleasant and could so easily have been avoided. A simple bench within the disabled toilets would help so much. I refuse to lie my seven year old on a dirty toilet floor. He may not look disabled but I can assure you he very much is. And he has a right to dignity. And so do I.
I would far rather see to his private needs in private. A simple bench could make that possible.
In fact a simple bench would save many others from doing it in the back of cars, in other people’s beds, behind bushes and many other places besides. I want my son to be respected and be given dignity. Is that really such a big thing to ask?
I need to change my disabled son. Help me do it in private please.