At HCOS, we believe an intentional and supportive community is vital for students to flourish. Surrounded by family and teachers, students are able to thrive and grow. We also strive to ensure students have the freedom to pursue their interests through flexible programs and schedules. That is what allowed Grade 11 student Lucy to advocate for accessible and dignified spaces for those that are unable to use conventional washrooms. You can read more about Lucy’s passionate advocacy for her sister and others in her own words below.
My sister has cerebral palsy. She is in a wheelchair, is non-verbal, and is completely dependent on her caregivers (my parents and me). We’re unable to leave the house because there are no washrooms my sister can use. The current accessible washrooms are grossly devoid of necessary equipment. Not even hospitals have truly accessible washrooms. I advocate for accessible washrooms to include an adult changing table and a hoist/lift. The adult changing table is used to change diapers, which many disabled people use, including my sister. The hoist is used to move from the wheelchair to the toilet or the table.
If this equipment is not in place, a washroom is not accessible for thousands of disabled people. If there is no adult changing table, we have to put my sister on the disgusting floor of a public toilet. How dignified (note the sarcasm). If there is no hoist, we have to carry my sister (a 5′ 6″ teenager) from her wheelchair to the toilet. Multiple studies have been conducted showing that parents/caregivers who carry their children often end up with a disability themselves. Both my parents have damaged their backs and shoulders from carrying my sister for 14 years. Canada aims to be barrier-free by 2040, but that will not happen if an adult changing table and hoist are not placed into washrooms.
We would not be the first country to do so. The UK has a standard called Changing Places. It includes the equipment I mentioned as well as some other things. The UK has 1796 Changing Places. Canada has one (that is registered). This is what I fight for. I want the Changing Places standard to be added to our building code, like in the UK.
I have been advocating for about 4 years now, including:
- Creating a Heritage Fair project about the history of accessible washrooms and the problems they have now. I made it to provincials.
- Wrote an article and did a live interview with CBC.
- I worked with BC Children’s Hospital because they were renovating, so they installed 3 washrooms with an adult changing table and a hoist.
- I was interviewed by CBC Kids through Children First Canada for National Child Day.
- I worked with a children’s center to install a Changing Place. It was completed in July and registered with Changing Places International shortly after, making it the first registered Changing Place in Canada.
- I won a Difference Maker of the Year award from the Rick Hansen Foundation and joined their Young Leaders Committee.
It’s been a long journey, but God willing, I won’t be stopping any time soon. I love my sister and I will do everything I can to create a world that she can actually see. Being with HCOS has allowed me the flexibility to do all these things. Some meetings are at times that I would not be able to attend in public school. Such as when I presented at a University of Toronto conference on children in healthcare. Or when I was a panellist for Spinal Cord Injury BC.