Summer this year for us has been different.
This Summer we are faced with the reality of having to rely on accessible places to visit. Places that welcome families like ours.
What are families like ours?
We are the different family.
The loud family.
The family that comes with many, many bags in order to have a ‘family day out’.
The days of bringing a changing bag, for us, aren’t over.
The days of making sure we’ve the suitable foods with us, the ‘formula’ or soft foods , in our case are a few bottles of ‘fortisip’ . The ‘soother’ or ‘dummy’ for our family is the pain relief , the hemp oil and the good ol reliable iPad.
We don’t travel anywhere lightly.
We don’t just go in the car and head off to the beach on a hot day.
We don’t decide on a whim to go off for the day.
We ring the ‘possible’ place of interest and we ask questions, which are often met with a few ‘I don’t knows’ or ‘ I think so’s’.
Ireland as a whole isn’t accessible.
That is the truth.
The places that are accessible don’t really understand what’s needed inside a toilet which has that little wheelchair symbol on it’s door.
I wasn’t always such a stickler for detail until my son began to lose his ability to walk and will eventually be unable to stand unaided.
A baby changing table inside a disabled toilets makes no sense , it serves no purpose to a person who cannot physically use the toilet unaided.
A baby changing table should either be in a family toilet room or inside the men’s and ladies toilets.
The places which are very accessible still don’t have a truly accessible toilet.
It means families like ours can’t really get out and about as much as we would like to.
That’s not an exaggeration. It is a fact.
It’s a fact that for us and for this Summer we chose to ignore it. If we were told that there was a disabled toilet , we packed the car up and went.
Ethan can still stand while we freshen him up. He leans on his daddy while I get down on the dirty floor, careful not to leave anything which will be going on my son on that floor. We bring throw away matts. We place his clean clothes, wipes, pull-up and anything else he needs on that matt. There’s no room for my knees too, so I use toilet roll if I have the time. Sometimes I don’t as Ethan really hates being freshened up in a strange room, which nine times out of ten, is cold, wet and dirty.
I scrub my hands before I touch him and after if I’ve the time I scrub my hands again; often I rely on baby wipes to get the germs off my hands.
That’s the reality.
That’s what people mean when they say ‘unable to use the toilet unaided’.
Our children and young adults have the basic right to their dignity.
These disabled toilets strips them of that dignity.
I won’t take a picture to show you, but I hope I have described what it is like to have to rely on a disabled toilet when cleaning your disabled child (and I hope I have kept Ethan’s dignity intact by doing so).
Next year, I am pretty sure that this won’t be the case.
Next year I am sure Ethan will have to lay on a changing table ; but where are these changing tables? Where are the hoists to help me when it’s just me and Ethan?
Should I just not bother bringing my son out?
All these questions scare me.
The fact that ‘Joe public’ thinks nothing of using a disabled toilet is hard enough but that the powers that be, still put a baby changing table in a disabled toilet is absolutely shocking.
Enough about toilets, I know you’ve all read it before.
We’ve been to a lot of places this Summer with only one thing on our minds – memories.
We want to make memories.
We need to make memories.
This year thus far has given us a lot of reality checks.
It’s shown us that the ‘house always wins’.
We never thought in our wildest dreams that Ethan would lose so much of ‘Ethan’ in such a short amount of time.
It’s the elephant in the room.
It’s the unsaid.
It’s also the reason we are doing our best to get out and about as a family, a loud, noisy family with a lot of bags and one that almost always attracts a crowd, sometimes in a good way or sometimes in a bad way…
We will begin a new journey with Lauralynn this September.
This is something I am still coming to terms with and no doubt will find it hard when we have our first visit.
I know Lauralynn will also help us make memories.
I wanted to complete a list of places which in my opinion are accessible (despite the disabled toilets being the ‘typical’ disabled toilets)
We have another four weekends before school starts ; I plan to do a day trip each weekend.
This is where you guys come in.
Is there somewhere you think Ethan would enjoy?
We can only travel for roughly 2 hours in the car before Ethan has had enough.
We live in Galway.
Sunday we plan to visit Sensory Me in Roscommon – anywhere else in Roscommon,that you either know is accessible or you’re not sure, just recommend it in the comments and I can do the rest!
Thus far we have been to Dreamland, Mungret Park, Curraghchase Park, Cong, Connemara (the Wild Atlantic Way) , Carraroe, Marley Park, Enniskerry, Powerscourt, The Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park, Birr Castle …
I should make it very clear that I have not been given anything for my opinions on the places which I have already visited and plan to visit . I am not writing advertisements, nor am I looking to. I am simply trying to compile a list for the whole family, the family like ours, who are many things but average.
This was originally published on FamilyFriendlyHQ