06:00 AM

New Family Accessible Restroom built: A game-changer for teens, families

Thanks to the vision of some determined parents and a "let's make it happen" attitude by Children's Mercy, teens Lauren and Claire Gibbs finally have a bit more dignity when they use the restroom at CMH.

And they're not alone. Children's Mercy has built a new Family Accessible Restroom, a unique bathroom that well exceeds ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, for all CMH patients and families who have special needs. The restroom is located at the Adele Hall Campus on the ground floor near the Orbits Cafeteria.

The restroom is unique in both size and scope - it's much larger than typical one-toilet restrooms, even those that meet ADA standards - and can accommodate the special needs of older children/adolescents, who have long outgrown the cramped space, changing tables designed for babies and lack of suitably sized toilets.

Lauren Gibbs, 17, demonstrates the motion-activated sink that is one of the features of the new Family Accessible Restroom.

"Public restrooms are extremely difficult for us," said Natalie Gibbs, a member of the Family Advisory Board whose daughters, Lauren, 17, and Claire, 16, both have spinal muscular atrophy, a group of inherited diseases that cause muscle damage and weakness in the muscles that are necessary for crawling, walking, sitting up and head control. "We've been able to work our way around it, but some families aren't so fortunate. Some have had to ask the clinics if they can use their higher changing tables. Others have had to lay their kids on the floor to insert a catheter. And some don't use a public restroom at all because it simply can't accommodate them. That's nearly impossible if you're spending all day at appointments at the hospital.

"It just wasn't right."

But it is now. The Family Advisory Board worked closely with Ann Modrcin, MD, Division Director of Rehabilitation Services; Melisa Pulis, Director of Child Life; and Vice President Lonnie Breaux and the Facilities team to make the Family Accessible Restroom a reality. The restroom includes child- and caregiver-friendly features that eliminate stress and offer "a bit more dignity and respect than we've been able to have before," Natalie said.

Those features include: 

  • An electronically powered changing table with headrest that can be raised and lowered to the desired height
  • A versatile, easy-to-use toileting system that features: Rolling frame, High back, Tilt-back frame, Armrests, Multiple stabilizing straps, Removable soft deflector, Removable pan and Adjustable footrest and foot straps 
  • Fixed standard-height toilet with drop-down hand rails
  • Motion-activated door that can be locked for privacy
  • Motion-activated sink, soap and towel dispenser
  • Additional sink, soap and towel dispenser next to the changing table for caregiver use
  • Paper covering to keep the table protected and clean
  • Germicidal disposable wipes for table cleaning

It certainly is a hit with Lauren and Claire, who recently took a tour of the finished facility.

"Using other public bathrooms is like an acrobatic experience," Claire said. "This new restroom is really great."

Lauren said, "I really like the new space. I can maneuver around much easier, and there's a lot more room."

The plan now is to make all Children's Mercy patients and families aware of the new facility and all that it can offer to those with unique needs.

"I'm grateful that Children's Mercy made this happen," Natalie said. "It's a breath of fresh air for families like ours that are so used to being confined. It's really going to benefit the community within Children's Mercy."

Family Advisory Board member Natalie Gibbs (background) and her daughters Lauren (left) and Claire say the accommodations provided by the new Family Accessible Restroom at the Adele Hall Campus includ

Family Advisory Board member Natalie Gibbs (background) and her daughters Lauren (left) and Claire say the accommodations provided by the new Family Accessible Restroom at the Adele Hall Campus includes facilities that are far superior to standard public restrooms for the special needs of older children and adolescents.