My Pet Peeves about Raising a Baby in an 'Able' World
Compared with my other serious posts about disabled parents losing custody of their children just because of the way they look, this may seem more trivial but I just have to 'get it off my chest.' After raising babies for years i came to realise that the world just isn't kitted out for parents with disabilities.
On a day out with my children, my son needed to use the toilet and you know three year old's - when they gotta go, they gotta go. We went to the disabled access toilet, the only one I could actually get into, to find that there was a queue of 'able' mothers a mile long outside it. A familiar scenario. Why? Because some moron also made the disabled access toilet a baby changing room. My son started squirming around.
"I gotta go! It's going to come out!"
I told him to hold it a minute longer, feeling irritated that management couldn't have put changing facilities in the regular toilets too. The even more annoying thing about it, was that when my children were babies, I couldn't even use the changing facilities. Why? Because even though they were in the disabled access toilet, they weren't accessible to me. Public changing mats are always raised off the ground meaning I would have had to lift baby up to reach the changing mat. As I couldn't do this unless seated and there were no seats, it was impossible. It also represented a falling hazard - once baby got older and started wriggling - I would have struggled to keep him on the mat with one hand while holding on for support with the other hand. I didn't even try it. It wasn't worth the risk. I had to lower the back on their prams and change them in the pram.
Seeing all the mothers queuing up to use facilities supposedly reserved for disabled people when I as a mother couldn't even use the change facilities for my babies just made me irritated.
Another time we were queuing up again and had reached our turn when an elderly woman with a stick cut in front of us, grabbed hold of my son and said to him rudely
"You're not allowed in here. This is a disabled toilet so your mummy can use it but you can't!!"
She then went into the toilet and locked the door, leaving my toddler son outside, bursting to go. He was still of an age where I had to go with him and the disabled access toilet was the only one I could get into. I was furious that she didn't take my requirements as a disabled parent into consideration but I didn't say anything because she was older than me and my mother taught me to have respect for the elderly.
And don't get me started on highchairs. Ugh. Whenever we went on vacation or to a restaurant, it was a problem. Most highchairs don't open out completely at the front even if you can take the tray off. They require a parent to stand and lift the infant into the seat - an action impossible for me. This meant that whenever I went out to dinner, I'd have to either place junior on my knee while I ate or leave him in his pushchair next to the table.
Some restaurants have a policy of not allowing pushchairs in and I couldn't carry my babies and could only move them about in a pushchair. Even the family friendly venue Butlins had buggy parks mothers were expected to use when entering the restaurant. When I was directed to the buggy park I just glared at the worker
"I can't carry my baby without this buggy so I'm not parking it anywhere."
Thankfully he did concede.
The supermarkets were the same. Their trolleys wouldn't open at the front, meaning I would have to lift baby over the top of the handle bars in order to place him in the baby seat. I couldn't so I just ended up putting food in the bottom of the pushchair and in my handbag. One day a store detective approached me because he suspected I was shoplifting. I said
"Come on, you know I don't shoplift, I've been coming in here for years!"
I then explained that I couldn't move baby without the pushchair and couldn't lift him into the trolley. The store detective offered to lift him in for me and guard my pushchair. I accepted his offer, but many stores won't offer as they are afraid to breach their insurance by touching a customer's baby.
I designed a shopping trolley for disabled parents with a fully opening front and I showed my deaign to customer services TESCO. A few months later I noticed they had new trolleys with open access seats - but the seats were designed for older children with disabilities.
"That's not what I meant", I thought, "I meant a trolley for disabled parents to put their babies into."
I ended up quitting shopping in store and switched to internet shopping to solve the problem.
Whenever I went away, I couldn't hire a travel cot as I couldn't lower the side on it to place the baby in it. Baby then either had to sleep in his pram or co-sleep with me.
To this day there are no disabled access baby seats on supermarket trolleys. There are no disabled access baby change facilities for mothers with mobility impairments, there are no easy access travel cots provided by holiday companies and to my knowledge there are no disabled access highchairs in public venues.
I think it's time that supermarkets, shopping centres and baby product manufacturers started to include disabled parents when designing their products and facilities.