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To the Store Clerk Whose Job I Made a Bit More Difficult

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I saw you look at us when we walked into your store — me and my little girl in her wheelchair. We perused the narrow aisles, trying to move aside and make room for other shoppers as they came through. We were smiling.

When it came time to try on clothes, I headed to your dressing rooms and my heart dropped. The handicap accessible stall was locked, and it was clear from the boxes, racks and bins inside that it wasn’t being used for customers.

You didn’t see me try to get myself and my little girl into a smaller dressing room. For a second, I considered if we could make it work; we couldn’t.

You didn’t see me considering my next move, wondering if I really needed to try on the clothes after all. I paused and wondered, maybe we should leave.

Then I looked at my little girl. 

You see, I’d promised her she could come shopping with her mommy, a girl’s day out. I remembered taking many of those trips as a child with my mom, watching her try on outfits and turn every way in the mirror and telling her she was so pretty.

My body stiffened with determination.

I probably didn’t have the nicest tone in my voice or look on my face when I asked if your handicap accessible dressing room was usable. You smiled and said no.

You likely saw my hair prickle when I gestured toward my daughter and said, “We don’t have another option.”

I saw the panic on your face as you headed to the back to ask your manager what to do. I’m sure you have no idea the speech I was rehearsing in my head if your answer was still no, which included references to the Americans with Disabilities Act and accessibility for everyone.

But you came back and said you had to move some items, but we could use the changing room. 

As you lugged bins and totes out of the room, I saw your frustration. They did look heavy.

For a second, I questioned if I was being too stubborn. We could leave. I didn’t need to try on those sweaters.

Was it really that big of a deal?

Yes it was. 

It wasn’t about that changing room anymore. 

This was about standing my ground for my daughter and everyone else like her.

It isn’t OK to use the only handicap accessible changing room for storage. Because when you do that, you take away our mommy-daughter shopping day. Those slightly larger changing rooms, the closer parking spaces and the doors that automatically open may seem like nothing to you, but to families like mine, they offer the opportunity for us to be like any other family.

So, while my request may have made your shift that day a little bit more difficult, I hope it drove home a message for you and anyone else in that store watching: families like mine shouldn’t be ignored and cast aside.

I also hope you didn’t move all those boxes and bins back into the changing room after we left.

Originally published: November 16, 2015
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