Bathrooms and IEPs, What You Need to Know with Christina Abernethy (Ep 143)

ada assistive technology best special education resources iep goals iep meetings iep resources iep table iep teams inclusion inclusive communities online special education resources resources for special education teachers special education resources successful iep meetings tips for iep meetings Aug 10, 2022

The bottom line is you don't know what you don't know in Special Education and the disability community.  So today we're going to tackle a topic you might not know about!  I'm excited to talk about this because some people can be embarrassed about it, but we need to have these conversations!  Christina Abernethy is here to talk all about inclusive and accessible restrooms!   

Christina is a dedicated wife, mother of three, and passionate advocate for people impacted by disabilities. She has coordinated events to fund research, supports, and service dogs for families. She has served on local committees, coached an adaptive cheerleading team, and won awards for successful fundraising endeavors including those for “Team Bubba,” honoring her son with autism. She is the founder of Love, Hope, and Autism and is proud to be the coordinator for Changing Spaces Pennsylvania, a movement to build accessible restrooms with powered height adjustable adult-sized changing tables across communities to promote inclusion. She is working with legislators to pass a bill in Pennsylvania that would require such facilities in hospitals, airports, museums, rest stops, sports arenas, and more. She also works as a Family Support and Community Engagement Specialist at Achieving True Self, supporting families like hers. Christina is committed to spreading a message of heightened awareness and acceptance of differences, ultimately inspiring hope.

It's something that a lot of us don't even think about while we're out in public, exploring our communities.  Can you imagine not having a restroom that's accessible for you?  Or one that's consistently closed or doesn't have what you need in order to use the restroom independently.  "That's a basic human right and it's denied to so many," says Christina.  Family restrooms are helpful, but for families like Christina, whose 11-year-old son with autism doesn't have a safe, clean space to get help with cleaning for occasional accidents.   For this reason, the Changing Spaces Campaign advocates for powered, height-adjustable, adult-sized changing tables to be installed in family restrooms so that individuals with disabilities can have a safe, dignified space to utilize the restroom either independently or with a caregiver.  

I remember being a brand new teacher, working in a therapeutic day school, and even in this specialized environment, there wasn't a restroom available to students who needed assistance, so we had to improvise a partitioned area inside the classroom!  That's not an experience you want to share with your classmates, but we had no other option.  

"Privacy and human dignity is such a huge piece of this," says Christina.  Creating these inclusive facilities is crucial to giving families the freedom to be a part of their community, away from their homes.  Think about what it felt like to sit at home during 2020— that's how many families feel 24/7 because of their assistive needs.  

Now that you're aware of this issue, there are things you can do to start the conversation inside your communities and schools to create more inclusive spaces.  

  1.  The most important thing you can do is to notice spaces where these disability-inclusive spaces can be added and bring them up in conversation with your local businesses and community spaces.  Schools are key!  Speak with your school leadership teams, principals, or school boards to make sure that they are aware that students in their care need appropriate facilities to truly be independent and respected. 
  2.  Extend the conversation wide!  Follow disability foundations like Changing Spaces and be sure to share their message with your audience to make this a more commonly known issue.  People don't know what they don't know, but you can help raise that awareness!
  3.  Get involved with organizations like Changing Spaces to help directly! Every voice matters!

Right now, there is a huge movement for inclusive playgrounds, which is awesome! But I'm going to challenge you to make sure that bathrooms are included in these requests.  If we need an adaptive swing, we're going to also need an accessible bathroom.  

Christina, thank you for bringing this conversation to the forefront!  We've got to talk about all the things that come with having a truly inclusive community.  Have those conversations and let's make real change in our communities!


Here's a glance at the episode... 

[2:46] "Can you imagine not having a restroom that's accessible for you?  Or one that's consistently closed or doesn't have what you need in order to use the restroom independently.  That's a basic human right and it's denied to so many,

[5:31] "Privacy and human dignity is such a huge piece of this,"

[14:20] "So often we're thinking of ramps and no curbs... but if you don't have an accessible restroom, they're still not going to come."  


Click here to listen! 

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Get Connected with Christina: 

Email [email protected]

Love, Hope, and Autism Website

Instagram and Facebook: @lovehopeandautism




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