Guest Blogger: Katie Peterson, Tatum’s Mom
Q. Tell us what type of disability impacts your life, or the life of a loved one
A. Tatum has Aicardi Syndrome. She has seizures, cerebral palsy and is blind. She doesn’t walk and has to use a wheelchair, she doesn’t walk and must be assisted in all aspects of life.
Q. Tell us about a time when you felt empowered.
A. It was very empowering to get a wheelchair for Tatum. It meant she could get around more comfortably and be with our family. She loves to be where the action is.
Q. If you could change one thing that all public spaces had to change to make life easier what would it be and why?
A. If I could change one thing at this point it would probably be providing changing tables for larger children and adults in restrooms. Right now we have to lay her on the filthy floor or take her to the car for a diaper change. She doesn’t fit on a baby changing table. One restaurant we were at didn’t even have a baby changing table and their restrooms were too dirty for me to think about putting Tate on the floor, even on a blanket. We were traveling and our car was filled with luggage so I couldn’t lay her in the back like I usually would. I ultimately had to use a bench in a booth to change her. It was uncomfortable and had no privacy. That’s not fair to her.
Q. Tell us one thing you want people to understand about living with a disability, or being a caregiver for someone with a disability.
A. We’re just people. We like to go out and see our friends. We like to go on family outings. We like to be together. We understand that things are more difficult and that’s okay, we still want to do things. We appreciate when people hold a door or smile at us, both Tate and her family.
A. The easiest way to stop discrimination is to spend some time with people with disabilities. Get to know them and their families so they don’t seem so “other”. Tatum is our youngest and she has 4 siblings from age 12-17. Their friends have been around Tate and gotten to know her. Many of them and their parents have commented to me that when they see someone in a wheelchair or who can’t speak they think of Tate. They want to know that person and be a friend. They don’t feel afraid or uncomfortable. The people who spend time with Tate and our family also see the challenges we face. They see when we can’t go somewhere because there isn’t a ramp or enough room. They see that it’s hard to get Tate out of the car in a small parking spot. They see people be both considerate and rude. They see others stare or make comments. They have learned about her and know her personality. Many of our friends have become so much more aware and become advocates for accessibility.