Family pleads for adult-sized changing tables for those with disabilities

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Posted at 3:00 AM, Mar 17, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Adventure Science Center in Nashville installed an adjustable, adult-sized changing table highlighting the need for the tables across the state where fewer than 10 exist.

"This is not a new need. But going to the bathroom is not something that we typically talk about. That's a hush-hush subject. So to be speaking out about it, it's a need that they have had all this time," said Chrissy Hood, a mother of a 19-year-old with several disabilities that requires full-time care.

Hood's daughter, Alaina, outgrew baby changing tables when she was about 5 years old, but it is a need she and her caretaker will have for the rest of her life.

"Typically, when someone leaves the home, they think about what activities are we going to do? Where are we going to eat? And ours is always, ‘Where are we going to change her? How far down the road will we get before she needs to be changed? Is there a private area that we can pull off to so that we can change her in the van?'" Hood said. "We look for bathrooms that are larger then, unfortunately, we have to lay her down sometimes on those bathroom floors."

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The Adventure Science Center in Nashville installed one of the first adjustable, adult-sized changing tables in Tennessee in their handicapped restroom March 15, 2022.

Hood explained it has been a lifelong challenge met with some incredibly difficult moments.

"[One time] I had to take her into the shower stall and pull the curtain behind us [to change her] and when we opened the curtain and stepped out, there were some of her peers from high school standing there. Her face just dropped, and she hung her head and the rest of the night she sat there she was humiliated," Hood said with tears in her eyes. "She knew exactly what they had witnessed, and what was going on embarrassed her and that was hard."

As Alaina grew and the challenge of finding a decent place to change her continued, Hood knew as much as she did not like the limelight, she had to start speaking out.

"We all have a story, and we should share our story. Because no one lives the life that we live, and if we didn't share our story, then no one will know," she said.

In 2019, Hood became a part of the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities and also quickly became the co-chair of the Tennessee Chapter of Changing Spaces Tennessee.

By sharing their family's story, Hood helped get a table installed at their church in Pulaski, Tennessee.

Hood said there are sometimes stationary tables attached to the wall of a bathroom, but those are not helpful to the individual's caretaker when the individual grows, and the caretaker ages and can no longer easily lift the individual.

"This is a need she will have her entire life. So we kind of have to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of her," she said.

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Nineteen-year-old Alaina Hood and her mother Chrissy Hood all smiles after checking out the adult-sized changing table at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville.

The Adventure Science Center became one of just a few known businesses in Tennessee on Tuesday to have an adjustable adult-sized changing table, which Hood said is what caregivers need.

"Thanks to Adventure Science Center’s partnership with Amerigroup and MaxAbility, we are proud to now offer a safe and dignified toileting solution with the addition of an adult-size changing table. The science center’s mission is to open every mind to the wonders of science and technology, and adequate accessibility is critical to making that possible," officials at the Adventure Science Center said.

The Hood family said in Nashville the only other place they know, that has an adjustable table, is Nashville International Airport.

In 2022, a bill was introduced to the Tennessee House and Senate that would put an adjustable adult-sized changing table in every rest stop across the state.

"This is something that has been brought to my attention just a couple of years ago when I hate constituents come to me Disability Day on the Hill and shared a story with me that was heartbreaking about how persons with disabilities in public places sometimes have to lay in bathroom floors. And this is something that no one should ever have to do," Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, said.

The bill also includes a grant program that would allow business and local governments to apply for funds to put toward an adult changing table.

Hood said they found a family restroom to be the best option for the changing table so that either parent can help their child.

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Due to the nature of Alaina Hood's disabilities, she uses a tablet to communicate.

"I've cried a lot of tears, a lot of tears during the process of just being humiliated for her," said Hood, reflecting on the time spent telling communities and decision-makers about the need her daughter and thousands of other Tennesseans have.

Hood also pointed out that disability is the only minority group that anyone can join at any time.

"You could be an accident, an illness away from having a disability," she said.

She said she hopes Tennesseans realize the lack of changing tables doesn't just affect those who currently need them as it will be someone new tomorrow.

"In our women's restrooms, we have a hook on the back of the bathroom door so we don't even have to put our purses on that dirty bathroom floor. But I'm expected to lay my child on the floor," Hood said.

The Hood family said the best way Tennesseans can help is by calling their legislator and asking them to pass the bill in 2022.

"Let them know that this is a need," Hood said. "Talk to your businesses, talk to your local officials and let them know there's a need because a lot of times, they're willing to step in and do what needs to be done. But, they don't think about this need, and so you have to educate them."

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The Adventure Science Center installed one of the first adjustable, adult-sized changing tables in Tennessee in their handicapped restroom March 15, 2022.