Enraged Father Sounds Off, but Was he Heard?

By Chris Kain, kellisaspath.com

It’s a constant battle; I have to dig deep not to hurt someone who is hurting Kellisa. I understand why so many families with children with disabilities stay home. It’s easy. It’s safe. My rage was on full display last Friday evening. After we passed through security at the Sacramento airport, I headed to the family bathroom with Kellisa. Travelling alone, I do not have many options. Yes, I can wheel her through who knows what inside a men’s bathroom or I can simply use the bathroom designated for families and people with disabilities.

Accessible Bathrooms and Smoke

Why So Difficult for Accessible Bathrooms to be Used Properly?

It’s so predictable, I start turning red and I can feel my blood pressure rising as we approach her bathroom. It’s locked. I give the door handle a good turn and a hard yank so there’s no doubt that someone is trying to enter. I know the odds are overwhelming that the accessible bathroom is occupied by a fully abled person who is viewing the space as their own private sanctuary. I position Kellisa in her chair and our roller bag on each side of me as we block off the escape routes.

We spend 20 minutes waiting outside this door. Moving would be giving up and is not an option. We are firmly entrenched in this fight and will see it through!

If by chance a person with a disability or a family exits the bathroom, I am ready to move in an instant so I don’t block their path and I will apologize quickly for being spread out a little too much. However, this would not be the case this evening as we still have many hours of travel to Indianapolis ahead of us. A 40-something man opens the door and drops his head as he tries to get around us. Before I could say anything, we are hit with a wall of smoke. “Are you kidding me?”

As I start to lay into him, he turns sideways and finds his narrow path to safety between Kellisa and the wall. I’m yelling at him as he quickly disappears into the crowd with his head down. I’m looking around as I yell out my questions and I have the full attention of everyone within several gates. There’s no way I can take Kellisa into this smoke filled bathroom. Why doesn’t it have a smoke detector? My eyes, throat and chest are going to burn until the following morning after just a few inhales of his nasty smoke. Who knows how this will affect Kellisa? I’m forced to take Kellisa into the men’s room and hope for the best.

Who is this guy to steal from Kellisa? The disabled restroom is supposed to be the one safe and private place in the entire airport for her and he felt his need to smoke is more important. I bet the bathroom is a small fraction of 1% of the entire footprint of the airport and it was taken from us. Rather than risk bronchitis and sore throats (it’s happened in the past to both of us after breathing in smoke), I’m forced to take her to a place with no hope of privacy or dignity. No father should ever have to force his teenage daughter into such a disgraceful situation when the perfect solution is less than 20 feet away.

It takes every fiber of my being to not really go after this guy. I wonder if it’s insanity to stand outside the door for 20 minutes when I know it will just make me rage. I can only hope that by staying and fighting (non-physically, of course) for Kellisa, that this man will never steal from the disability community again. I can also hope that any potential thieves within my shouting range will also be deterred in the future.

About the Author:

Chris Kain is Kellisa’s adventurous and devoted father. With a blog (www.kellisaspath.com), Chris shares Kellisa’s medical journey (not expected to survive more than a few hours after birth, 22 surgeries and countless brushes with death) and how she lives a life without limits (hiking, camping, kayaking, dancing, bike riding, playing little league baseball, bowling, bungee jumping and many other activities) as she continues to break the stereotypes of a girl dependent on a wheelchair.

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