We spent the day at Woodfield Mall while Michael completed a merit badge at the Microsoft Store. Trying to keep Miss Lizzie occupied at a mall for 3 hours is a challenge, but the bathroom situation is enough to make a special needs mom cry. I know, I almost did.

It’s about a 40 minute drive to Woodfield for us,  so by the time we arrived and Michael was settled in his class Miss Lizzie was gagging herself.  For those who don’t know Lizzie, this is a sign she needed to be changed.

This mall is massive and multi-leveled.  Just finding a public bathroom was hard enough. Getting to it with a wheelchair was a challenge.  Ramps here go partway.  Ramps there go partway.  There are elevators that only go to certain floors.  Having never negotiated this mall alone,  I found trying to do it with a wheelchair daunting.  I was frustrated to say the least. Then I finally get in the bathroom to find three stalls and a sink, and zero extra room. The handicapped stall was an insult.  Not even big enough for Lizzie’s chair alone,  and no hope for getting the door shut for privacy at all. I apologized to Miss Lizzie for extending her wait and immediately left the bathroom.  A lady who saw us going in a moment before asked with concern,  “It’s not working?” I said,  “Not for us.” Bearing down on Lizzie’s chair, I tried to find another bathroom.

I decided if the public mall washroom was that bad, maybe I would try a department store. We went to the closest which was JC Penney’s. The Penney’s washroom was on the second floor of their store, so up in their elevator we went. We found the washroom. The entrance to the bathroom was lined on both sides with sinks that were barely far enough apart to get her chair through with no one there. If there had been someone else it would have been a traffic situation, one of us moving out of the way for the other. The bathroom had only one stall in use. The handicapped stall. So I pulled Lizzie down the hall between the stalls. I noticed there was another handicapped stall, but that one was not big enough for her chair let alone me with her. With no one else in the bathroom, we went to the end of the aisle and I pulled Lizzie’s liner diaper out the leg hole of the shorts she wears under her pants. If she is just wet, this is how we sometimes deal with the bathroom situation. She was not just wet, and now I knew we had a mess on our hands. So the person in the handicapped stall came out. She was carrying an item on a hanger, don’t know what that was about and had no time to question it. I threw open the door to that handicapped stall, and noticed there was enough room for Lizzie’s blanket on the floor. It felt like a jackpot to me.

I carry a very large picnic blanket with me for these occasions. We make do on the floor when we have to. Moving all of our bags and my wallet off of Lizzie’s chair and into the stall, I set up her blanket and her on the floor. Then I closed the door and changed her. Her on the floor me bending over and fearing that someone would take or mess with her chair which was out of my sight.

During the change, I could hear another mother come in. She was explaining to her daughter that she was three and could not fit on the changing table and that was why she should be potty trained. I wanted to tell her to try changing an 11-year-old with lady issues who can not stand to be changed, but bit my tongue. My bathroom situation was not her fault. I hoped for her sake potty training was around the corner for her daughter.

After getting Lizzie to the floor, changed and back in her chair, I felt like I had just taken an hour long aerobics class. I was thankful that at least there was enough room on the floor to change Lizzie, even though the floor should not have to be our go to move.

When we left Penney’s a few minutes later, we left by the second floor mall entrance, where immediately out the door I saw a restroom sign. I decided to go down the the hall to see what was available. I looked in the door (it was too crowded to take Lizzie in when we didn’t need it) and I saw a couch in there. I also noted a family bathroom outside of the ladies’ room. I made note where this bathroom was in case we needed it again, but with it being on the second floor and the Microsoft store on the first, it wasn’t ideal. I mean, with Lizzie in diapers is one thing, but I was thinking about those people who can actually use a toilet and would have to come all the way up here to get to one that was usable.

Michael finished his merit badge some time later. On our way out of the mall he commented that he needed to use the bathroom. Having drank a Starbucks coffee for the ride home myself, I thought he had a good idea. I told him we’d check out the bathroom before we left. This time we were in Nordstrom’s which was the store we had parked by because of the proximity to the Microsoft store inside and the proximity of the handicapped parking outside. I walked into Nordstrom’s bathroom by the Men’s suit department. I was immediately impressed by a 4 foot table mounted to the wall. I of course took advantage and changed Lizzie. I also was able to use the handicapped stall while having Lizzie’s complete chair in there with me with the door closed. Kudos to Nordstrom’s. I was thrilled. So was Lizzie who had a nice padded table and giggled the entire time I changed her. It was great for us, but I would like to say that this open changing situation often makes me think of my friends with sons and how it might not work for them.

This table was a wonderful and rare find. Sad to say that, but it’s true. One thing I truly hate about taking Lizzie anywhere is the bathroom situation. Bathrooms are horrible for disabled individuals. This needs to change. People should not have problems enjoying being out in public because they might need to use the facilities or they might have to change a diaper on someone larger than an infant. I shouldn’t have to check out the bathroom before it’s needed just so I can strategize how I can use it to accomplish what should be a simple task. It’s ridiculous. I also shouldn’t have to keep hand sanitizer on us or buy some because Lizzie can not get to a sink to wash her hands. After having been on the floor (granted on a blanket, but still), she couldn’t wash her hands!

Bathrooms for the disabled are a real problem. I’ve been having this same problem since Lizzie was 3 and too heavy/large to go on an infant changing table. That’s 9 years for us personally. And I’m sure it’s been going on since there have been public washrooms. I’m wondering when there is going to be news coverage for this problem? When are people going to be outraged that disabled people should have the ability to use any public washroom they want and that their safety and privacy in the washroom needs to be protected? Every time I hear about this transgender bathroom battle, it gets my blood pressure up. Sure they have rights, I understand that, but so do the disabled and they’ve been having restroom problems practically everywhere forever. How about rallying around them and giving them news coverage and talk show segments? How about fixing the public bathrooms so they can be used by everyone?