POWELL — A recent renovation at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium came about because of a project run by one Westerville teen.
Heath Academy student Olivia Brohard, 17, started a campaign over a year ago to get an adult changing table added to a family restroom at the zoo in memory of her younger brother, Abram.
“Abram lived with quadriplegic cerebral palsy,” Brohard said. “He was deaf, nonverbal, and needed assistance with every aspect of daily living. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is absolutely amazing when it comes to accessibility and inclusion. Everything is accessible, including the boat rides, carousel and train. Since the only thing that Abram could do completely by himself was observe the world around him, the Columbus Zoo was his most favorite place to spend a day, since he was visually engaged from the moment we entered until the moment we left.”
Brohard said the only issue with zoo visits came when the family needed to address Abram’s toileting needs because the zoo lacked an adult changing station.
A member of the American Heritage Girls organization, Brohard said that for her project for her Stars and Stripes award, she wanted to “find a way to create lasting, positive change while at the same honoring the memory of my little brother, Abram.”
“Working alongside the zoo to complete the ‘Stay All Day’ project was very important to me, not only to honor my brother’s memory, but also to give families like mine the chance to spend the entire day together at the Columbus Zoo,” she said. “I believe that all life is valuable — from conception to natural death — and all of our basic needs should be respected and met, regardless of who we are or what our ability level may be.”
Brohard detailed the project from start to finish on her blog, https://olbrohard.wixsite.com/stayallday.
“This entire process has been hard work; working with different businesses, organizing and leading project workdays, designing and implementing the mural, creating the graphics and art,” Brohard said. “Finally installing the mural, handprint tiles, and changing table was one of the best feelings I have ever had. Not only did it feel like a wonderful closure on this entire project, but it felt like I had succeeded in honoring Abram’s memory. I am very excited to see how these facilities can benefit families for many years to come!”
The completed facility can be found in Adventure Cove’s family restroom, right next to Stingray Bay, Brohard said.
The project also caught the attention of the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, who praised Brohard for her dedication to accessibility.
DCBDD PR & Community Education Manager Anne Flanery said adult changing tables are “an important piece of universal restrooms,” and the board has been pushing for inclusion of these changing tables at many locations in the county.
“If you think about it, you probably can’t remember seeing these in any public restrooms,” Flanery said. “So what happens to people who need this type of accommodation when an adult-sized changing table isn’t around? Sometimes they are changed on the floor and more often than not, their outings have to be shortened or planned around restroom breaks. Our mission at the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities is for all people to achieve their full potential. To do this, people need equitable access to the community, and it starts with having our basic needs met.”
Flanery said the Delaware County District Library has plans to include an adult changing table in its new Liberty Branch, and the board is working to get a similar facility added to the Polaris Mall.
Brohard said she’d love to see the facilities “everywhere.”
“Any family restroom can accommodate one of these tables, which fold away when not in use,” Brohard said. “They’re not very expensive either. COSI, IKEA, all large family-oriented facilities could consider adding one to their family restroom. The need for these facilities is a need that you don’t really think about unless you’ve lived it. I hope that my family’s story and this project will spark a change in the community, and we will be seeing more of these tables as part of the norm very soon.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.