A Needle in a Haystack- How to Find A Universal Changing Table When You Need One
If you or your loved one rely on having access to a universal changing table in order to meet your restroom needs, you know that finding one is not an easy task. Most of the time the building or park where you happen to be may not even have one, and, if they do, you may not be able to find it.
My son and I have experienced the frustration of not having access to an inclusive changing table many times, but one time in particular really stands out to me. We were flying home from a Spring break trip to Florida, and due to weather delays, missed our connecting flight home. All remaining flights in to our home city, Columbus, Ohio, were sold out for the next two days...and we were down to our last diaper.
After a few dramatic hours being stuck at Boston airport, we got on a flight to Cincinnati airport, two hours away from our home. When we landed, my son needed to be cleaned up in the restroom right away. I asked two different airport employees if they happened to have an adult-size changing table. They both looked at me like I just spoke another language and then said no, they had nothing like that.
They directed me toward a few options: the mother's nursing pod and the family bathroom with a baby changing table...neither of which would work. Finally I explored the women's room and was thankful to find a long countertop where I could lift my son up and change him. This was not ideal because he was already nine years old and I did not want to expose him to women and girls passing my in the restroom. Luckily my mother was with me and helped me to shield my son while I changed him as fast as I could. I tried to put the stress of it all behind me and was just happy to get home.
The three options I had: mother's nursing pod (bench and counter both too small for a 9 year old), the floor of the family restroom (unsafe and unsanitary), and the countertop in the women's room (not private).
A few weeks later, I saw an unexpected Facebook post- a photo of a powered, height-adjustable adult size changing table at Cincinnati Airport. It is located in a family restroom near gate B13. I could not believe that the exact piece of equipment we so desperately needed that day, had been there all along. Unfortunately, there were no signs to direct us to the universal changing table, and the staff were unaware of its existence.
It was then that I knew, if I had had a map showing me the locations of universal changing tables, I could have located the restroom myself and changed my son in a safe, dignified and private space. This was the moment I decided to make the Universal Changing Table Map.
After over a year of gathering data for the map, including photos of each location, what kind of changing table is available, and how to find and access it, the Universal Changing Table Map was ready to share with the world.
Thanks to other disability advocates who contributed, such as advocates from the Changing Spaces Campaign and DisABILITY SA, it is the most comprehensive adult changing table map available in the United States. The nonprofit that is funding the map is Inspired Access Foundation.
Our hope is that people utilize this free resource to locate adult-size changing tables in their community, when planning day trips, and making detailed travel plans. It can also be used by advocates to show to their city council or city manager, how few universal changing tables exist in a given city or state. They can ask and encourage them to make a plan to install adult-sized changing tables to make their communities more inclusive and accessible for all people.
The Universal Changing Table map relies on people like YOU to submit new adult changing table locations as you find them and as new ones are installed in your community. If you know of a location not currently on the map, please submit the location with a photo by clicking here: https://www.changingspacescampaign.com/map
Written by Kim Boulter, Changing Spaces Ohio co-leader
June 5, 2023