Menomonie (WQOW) – Parents with small kids often say there aren’t enough changing tables in public places, but parents of adult kids with special needs have an even bigger problem.
Baby changing stations can normally only hold up to 35 pounds. For one Menomonie parent who has an adult child with special needs, that’s just not enough.
Nineteen-year-old Kathy Falk is living with Rett syndrome, which affects her ability to speak, walk, and even breathe. Kathy’s mom Arla Falk changes her daughter’s diaper five to seven times a day, usually on an adult-sized changing table in their Menomonie home. When they’re out in public, it isn’t so simple.
“Weight-wise she’s over the limit, and I’m afraid she’s going to break one [of the child-sized changing stations] and get hurt,” Arla said.
Arla said she’s even resorted to changing Kathy in the family van, sometimes with stares and scoffs from strangers. “She has her own dignity also and deserves her own privacy,” said Arla. “I shouldn’t have to lay her on a dirty floor just to change her pants.”
Manager Leslie Fijalkiewicz from the Aging and Disability Resource Center in Chippewa County believes businesses would be on board with making accommodations, but explains they might face some challenges. “There are barriers for some types of businesses to be able to do that. Space is a big issue,” said Fijalkiewicz. “Cost can be an issue also.”
Fijalkiewicz said the biggest barrier is a lack of knowledge: lots of people don’t even know this is a problem. “We can’t help people overcome some of those barriers or challenge if we don’t know those problems exist.”
Kathy and Arla live with those challenges every day. Arla said she knows lots of others who do too, and would love a place to change their adult children in clinics, airports and restaurants. “We need this change because there are so many that would benefit from this,” said Arla.
If you you need help with your loved one with disabilities, Fijalkiewicz suggests reaching out to the aging and disability resource center or the center for independent living western Wisconsin.
She says these resources can also guide business owners on how to make their facilities more accessible.