In 1984, the late Amber Tatro had to petition the court to be able to receive necessary assistance with using the restroom in school. The school board in Texas had to provide clean intermittent catheterization services during class hours to Tatro who had spina bifida. The condition prevented her from emptying her bladder on her own, so she had to be catheterized every few hours in order to avoid kidney problems. The case stands out as the court’s first attempt to define the distinction between “school health services” and “medical services”. For her literal right to use the restroom Tatro had to petition the nation’s highest court. While no child should be denied access to public education, the fact that if the court hadn’t ruled in her favor she could have been denied access to schooling because of a basic bodily function, is outrageous. I have cerebral palsy and use both a power wheelchair and walker to get around. Growing up, I used the restroom in school once a day.
I never wanted to inconvenience the aides who the school paid to assist me with personal needs. Granted, the vast majority of these aides were caring, understanding people. I felt bad enough that I needed somebody’s help with such personal tasks. In particular, during my senior year of high school, I had an aide assigned to me who I wasn’t fond of. I knew that I was entitled to assistance while in school. However, there was no guarantee that the person who was assisting me on any given day was going to treat me with respect and dignity.
Every time I had to use the bathroom, there was a little bit of a process involved. I couldn’t just use the bathroom and be back in a minute. Making things more complicated is the fact that most public bathrooms only have one accessible restroom stall. If someone was using it in school, I had to wait.
When you have a physical disability, you learn to make your needs less important than they are for the sake of caregivers and other people around you. This is an unhealthy habit and one I have been working hard to break because my needs do matter and are just as important as anyone else’s. When you have a disability, even using the restroom can be questioned at times.
Roberts, Sam. “Amber Tatro, Whose Suit Gave Rights to Disabled Students, Dies at 42.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/obituaries/amber-tatro-whose-suit-gave-rights-to-disabled-students-dies-at-46.html.