CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — If the phrase “highway journey” makes you consider a carefree outing, you’ve probably by no means been a caregiver touring with somebody who has disabilities.

Nancy Baker Curtis, a mom of two from Johnston, remembers one journey house from Chicago when the household couldn’t discover a toilet alongside Interstate 80 that labored for her 7-year-old son, in order that they needed to empty out the automobile to make sufficient room for Baker Curtis to vary the boy’s dirty garments there.

“I actually plan our outings by the place our restrooms are and the place I will change my son,” stated Baker Curtis. “What do you do when your son is 30 and he’s not a bit boy, however he nonetheless requires each day help with these duties?”

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The Iowa Division of Transportation heard these considerations and is including grownup altering rooms to 4 interstate relaxation areas this 12 months, together with relaxation areas on Interstate 380 northbound between Iowa Metropolis and Cedar Rapids and on Interstate 80 westbound close to Tiffin.

Every room may have an adult-size altering desk that may be raised and lowered with a distant management so caregivers can safely change a dependent baby or grownup. The fully-enclosed rooms even have a rest room, sink and hand dryer and lock from the within.

Inside a number of years, all 20-plus trendy relaxation areas within the state may have grownup altering rooms, stated Steve McMenamin, Iowa DOT relaxation space administrator.

“Now that we perceive the scenario, we’re attempting to do what we are able to to accommodate these wants,” he stated.

Baker Curtis, 45, a Spanish language trainer in Johnston, stated she first turned conscious of the issue when her son was 2 and she or he was driving forwards and backwards from Chicago to Des Moines and couldn’t discover altering tables that match her son, Charlie.

When the climate was good, she would do it on the seat of the automobile, which wasn’t personal, however at the least it was clear. When winter got here, she may not stand within the open automobile door and alter her son with out exposing him to chilly and wind.

“I spotted my solely choice was that soiled toilet ground,” she stated. “You’d by no means select that for somebody you really liked.”

In the meantime, Baker Curtis’s father was caring for her mom, who had skilled a number of strokes and wanted assist utilizing the restroom. Bigger grownup altering rooms make it simpler for a caregiver to offer that help whereas sustaining privateness.

“This is a matter that bookends our inhabitants,” Baker Curtis stated.

Greater than 60,000 Iowans age 5 or older require help with finishing each day life duties, together with toileting, in accordance with the 2022 Iowans with Disabilities report. With out toilet lodging, many individuals with disabilities simply keep house, changing into remoted socially.

Including grownup altering rooms to Iowa DOT relaxation areas wasn’t with out considerations.

The 4 altering rooms to be accomplished this fiscal 12 months will value a mixed $292,000. The peak-adjustable adult-size altering tables value $10,000 to $12,000 every. McMenamin hopes that because the division hires contractors for future jobs, it should study methods to be extra environment friendly with the rooms, which have an identical blueprint.

“The opposite worry is that they may very well be used for inappropriate actions,” McMenamin stated of the altering rooms.

As a result of the rooms will be locked from the within, individuals may have intercourse within the rooms or use them for criminality, corresponding to for human trafficking or drug transactions. Relaxation space attendants have keys, but it surely’s arduous to detect bother in a room with a locked door.

“I’ve seen lots of stuff,” McMenamin stated. “We needed to decrease the stall partitions in different restrooms due to issues happening.”

The Iowa DOT had these identical considerations when the grownup altering stations had been used just for household restrooms, which additionally locked from the within. Leaders determined to maneuver forward with including the grownup altering rooms regardless of the danger a small share of tourists may misuse the areas.

Iowa’s 38 relaxation areas, which embody 22 trendy ones and 16 which can be older, are visited by greater than 17 million individuals a 12 months.

The primary relaxation space to be tailored, in December 2021, was I-80 eastbound close to Victor. This month, the height-adjustable adult-size altering tables are being added on the Tiffin and Cedar Rapids relaxation areas with relaxation areas on I-80 by Adair and I-35 by Story Metropolis to observe.

The Iowa DOT plans to finish 5 different altering rooms in fiscal 2024 and 5 extra the next 12 months.

Baker Curtis is a part of a gaggle referred to as Altering Areas Iowa, which is advocating for extra height-adjustable grownup dimension altering tables throughout the state. The tables are 6 ft lengthy and 36 inches large and may maintain greater than 400 kilos. The Iowa Youngsters’s Museum within the Coral Ridge Mall shall be among the many locations with this sort of desk after an replace this spring.

From amusement parks to zoos, all points of interest ought to have restroom services that work for all guests, Baker Curtis stated. The nationwide Altering Areas Marketing campaign is working to create a pc app that can let customers discover restrooms that meet their wants, she stated.

“I’ve been bugging Google,” she stated. “If you happen to can inform me there’s a McDonald’s, it is best to be capable of inform me the place there’s a height-adjustable adult-size altering desk.”

© 2023 The Gazette
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