Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Melbourne Museum and a rant about "disabled" toilets

We recently got our Museum Victoria membership (more info here, do check it out if you live near Melbourne!), but I had been too chicken to go until today.

Maybe I make it sound like I'm tough and have it together etc, but the reality is that doing something new with the kids can be a little bit daunting for me.

I do have some sort of anxiety disorder (I didn't think I did, but saw it written on my hospital file back when Casi was born, and thought about all the psychologists and counsellors I've seen over the years, and then realised yes, I am a little bit on the not-so-balanced side...) which makes me worry in advance about NEW circumstances in which I might struggle physically.
I stress out with stuff like "it'll be a big day so probably I should pack the kids in the stroller. But what if the place is not stroller friendly? How am I going to push the stroller and the kids separately? And what if I don't pack it, will the kids have to walk lots from the car? How am I going to carry the bags we need? How am I going to carry our bags if one of them wants to be picked up?" those sort of thoughts.

Missing part of an arm isn't that difficult really, but some things are tougher: carrying extra weight (you know, the 50 million things you need to pack when you have kids?), not being able to hold hands with both kids at the same time, pushing a stroller in a straight line, just little things like that...

So with the excuse of Romp and Stomp at Melbourne Museum, I decided today was the right time for our first visit. I figured, if it is an event for kids, they must be stroller friendly etc.

So we went, parked at a bit of a distance, enjoyed the walk there in the stroller (gorgeous day in Melbourne today!), and had an awesome time at the Museum!

In the end it was a bunch of organisations showcasing what they can offer and they had a few nice
things to do for the kids, but probably nothing out of the ordinary for us... But I was really stoked we went because now I know my way around and it means I'll be taking them so so often! Stay tuned for our future adventures at the Museum :)

On a side: the aftermath of our holiday were 3 shitty days with huge tantrums/meltdowns, both Casi and I... So getting back to our normal life yesterday has been fabulous!

So we had a marvellous day, I averted one of Casi's tantrums, and even if Sosi was knackered, nobody ran off by themselves, nobody yelled, pinched, snatched, hit etc, the 3 of us were back to how I like things, all happy, doing interesting things, enjoying each other's company and enjoying life.
sand table organised by Toy Libraries Victoria

one of the art areas

But I did walk away with a couple of reflections.
One of them being on the slap in the face that services for the disabled can be.

Today we used a "disabled" toilet because a) it had a baby changing area b) it's bigger than the normal female cubicles c) I thought it would be easier pushing the double stroller through the door of a toilet for differently abled people. How wrong I was! It is clear that whoever designed the door on that toilet had never pushed a wheelchair or a stroller or had to carry kids and bags. It is clear that whoever designed that toilet does not have a disability nor a child, and might not care much for people like us.

The toilet door was quite heavy and there was nothing to hold it open, on the contrary, it had a hydraulic closing system! Which is so handy if you can't be bothered closing a bathroom door.
Not so handy if you have to open the said door. Particularly if you're pushing a double stroller (made heavy by the 2 growing kids) that hardly fits through the doorway. I backed in the door with my bottom, held the door open with a foot while trying to wedge in the stroller, and at the same time manoeuvred and pulled in the stroller-beast with the one hand I have and the other little elbow joint that I use as a hand. I'm sure every mother/parent/carer had to do this at least once in their pram-pushing life.
This was really not that tough for me, I am used to doing things differently.
But it would be really tough if I was in a wheelchair. I can appreciate a small restaurant or local amenities might not have these things in mind when building toilets etc for their clientele, but Melbourne Museum? This is one of the most visited places in our city.
And I thought about this post at Selene's Memo To Self, I just found her blog and already love her writing style and her guts.

People in wheelchairs might be a minority, but when you add them up to mothers with strollers, and people that have all sorts of physical challenges, surely there can't be that few of us that you can't properly plan and build to include us? We don't need a special treatment, but why bother making special toilets for people with special needs if those toilets aren't easily accessible by the intended crowd?

I am appalled. What should be such a simple service for other fellow human beings in our community is in fact quite challenging and would constitute such a big struggle in someone's day.

I know it's only one minor thing in an otherwise easily accessible building, but it does really make you think. How patronising and condescending the mentality behind this is, "we'll build it for you because you are disabled and you need our help", but without really caring about what the differently abled person needs. It almost felt like an after-thought, "oh bugger we forgot to make a toilet for those wheelchair people".
That toilet was definitely more disabled than the people using it.

And my other thought was about the bad attitude so many mothers have with their children... but that's a whole other post for another day when I'm fresh and well rested :)

What about you, are there any places or things you find challenging in your errands with kids?


  1. Totally agree Sara. Environments create disabilities. Surely in this day and age we should be building facilities that are manageable for all, not make life harder than it might already be.

    Good on you for taking both kidlets to the Museum. I haven't been brave enough yet!

  2. Thanks for the shout out!! :D And I totally agree about 'disabled' toilets. Grrrrrrr. The doors suck, the facilities usually suck, and there's no place to change people.

    I did like the Museum when we went last we were down there, it still looks like fun!

  3. Totally agree with you about disabled toilets not being very well designed. I've on occassion needed to use them too (when I was on crutches for a few months) and found the doors in some places so hard to open! So I hear you! Good on you for bringing this to our attention.

  4. I worry that I'm one of those parents who seem to have a bad attitude toward their kids. I don't. I love my son's energy and enthusiasm for life.
    When we are around other people though,I get paranoid about what they might think, what impact him being himself might be having on their day. It's part of my anxiety.
    So I seem like I'm harsh on him. I recogonise I'm doing it and I try to let go and let him be him, but I worry people think I don't enjoy him.