Over the course of twenty-plus years working in the field of Disability Ministry, I have heard countless stories from parents and caregivers who struggle to navigate a less than accessible world. Trips as a full family into public must be meticulously planned and executed around meals and potential bathroom breaks. The near impossibility of making things work perfectly often causes more stress than families are willing to go through. The result, families are forced to play tag team. One parent always stays home to care for their child with a disability while the other ventures out.
Can you relate?
One of the major obstacles for families is the lack of universal-sized changing tables in restrooms. This is not unique to churches. Public spaces everywhere have looked the other way when it comes to true accessibility. And when a child outgrows an infant-sized changing table the world is no longer accessible.
Parents and caregivers that are brave enough to venture out despite the lack of universal-sized changing tables can be forced to lay their loved ones on a filthy bathroom floor or change them in the back of a van for the whole world to see. Lack of accessibility in restrooms robs people of their dignity. This should not be!
All people deserve dignity.
So what can anyone do about it? It seems like a problem that is too big or too broken to fix.
An obvious obstacle to change is the fact that talking about what goes on in the bathroom is awkward at best.
That is why Adam Bryant and I wrote a book called, The Tale of the Shrinking Toilets.
Adam Bryant, an accomplished artist, is the book’s illustrator. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at age 11. Adam never saw his diagnosis as a detriment, but rather a blessing. He graduated high school with honors and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design, majoring in animation. Adam shares, “What keeps me going as an artist is wanting to make a positive impact on the world with my art and helping reach others! That’s what I feel like I am here to do, and why I was given these talents!”
What exactly is this toilet book all about?
Why read a book full of potty talk? It is not because the author wants to push the buttons of the polite police in your lives. There is a much deeper meaning behind all this toilet talk.
You will soon find out that the world changed forever on “Two Two Day” when all the toilets in public restrooms mysteriously shrunk to miniature size. The Tale of the Shrinking Toilets reveals the devastating consequences of an inaccessible world as it paints a powerful allegory and invites its readers an opportunity to be change agents.
The book is meant to break the ice in a fun way on the difficult topic of bathroom accessibility. It was meant to be used as a conversation starter.
If your church does, favorite restaurant, business, etc. does not have a universal-sized changing table, buy this book for the lead pastor or business owner. Let the book start the awkward conversation for you. Ask them to read it and then follow up with them after they have read the book.
Do not just point out the problem. Tell them why accessibility is important to you, your family, and families like yours! Then present them with practical doable solutions and next steps.
In addition to the book, we have created a website full of resources to help you be a change agent in your community. Visit our website here.
If you want to get involved and make a difference check out our Initiative page. On this page, there are ways to contact your local officials, sample letters you can use to lobby for change, blueprints for building a DIY universal-sized changing table, and links to purchase affordable options.
If your church or business needs a universal-sized changing table, grant money is also available for your project. Learn more about those grants here.
This story is dedicated to all people with disabilities and their loved ones who are forced to navigate the frustrating landscape of a world that is neither kind nor accessible. Living in a world that is not accessible is not fiction.
This is reality. Thankfully, there is a solution to this crisis. Installing universal-sized changing stations in public restrooms can make all the difference in the world. Be a part of the solution. Do not be afraid of a little potty talk.
If you would like to purchase a book grab one in the Ability Ministry store. Every penny of your purchase goes to the grant fund that we make available for churches.
Thank you for being a change agent. Remember, everyone deserves dignity and you can provide that for them by being an advocate.
Ryan Wolfe is the President and CEO of Ability Ministry, a non-profit organization that provides homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ability Ministry also works with religious organizations, helping them to establish and advance Disability Ministry programming and outreach. In addition to being an author and featured speaker, Ryan is a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities. His personal mission is to fight not only for inclusion but also for meaningful opportunities of belonging.