She works for ‘change’ in public accommodations

Linda Hood is still running marathons. They may not be on a race track, and she is not using her […]

Linda Hood is shown with a changing table, something she'd like to see in public restrooms everywhere

Linda Hood is still running marathons. They may not be on a race track, and she is not using her legs. But the effort and the goals are the same. She is proving to herself that what she does matters, and she is putting all the energy of a long-distance runner into her task.  Hood, a scientist, has spent her life running marathons, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, competing in triathlons and skiing all over the world. Her physical activities stopped in 2018, when she ate some bacteria-laced chicken and was stricken with paralysis. She spent eight months in a hospital and nearly died. Hood emerged as paraplegic, with her nerves and speech affected.  In 2022 she was named Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota, with a platform tied to her longtime goal of  getting adult-sized changing tables in public restrooms. The need became obvious after her hospitalization ended.

“It is embarrassing and humiliating to be changed on a filthy floor in a public restroom,” Hood said. “This is something that has been long overdue.”  Adult changing tables are already offered at places including US Bank Stadium and the Minnesota State Fair. A 2023 federal law calls for all new public buildings to be required to have adult changing tables in restrooms.  Hood’s latest involvement was in a new law that requires airports to have restrooms with adult changing tables. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has already added the equipment.  The bill has passed the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by the president shortly. “We wanted to have a signing ceremony, but there is so much going on with campaigning. He will probably sign it while he’s on a plane,” Hood said.  Many people worked on the newest bill, including all the people tired of being changed on the floor or having a family member in that situation. “Now all the airports in the United States have to have an adult-sized pull-down table. I’m very happy about it.”  It will make a big difference for all the people who travel, whether to visit or for an emergency, to have these tables available.  Hood paid for her trip to Washington, DC, to meet with lawmakers. She said that when she visited DC, she announced her appearance. She went through Congressional and Senate office doors like royalty.  “I spent two days knocking on doors,” she said. “I would just ask them for 15 minutes of their time. I gave them my cards, and when I got home I wrote them back and reminded them I had been in their office and asked for their support.”

She compared the work of lobbying to a tennis game, with back and forth until a bill is signed into law.  Hood told legislators she was there to represent the million people who need adult changing tables.  “I represent the parent, the aunt, the sister, the mom, across the board, all of us in the same situation,” she said.  She is continuing with her campaign to improve public restrooms with adult changing tables, at sports stadiums and at highway rest stops.

“When you are traveling, you should not have to check into a hotel to be able to use the restroom,” she said.  Hood wants the movement to go international. She plans a trip to the Paris Olympics and the Paralympics.  Hood was 59 when she acquired the virus that put her in a wheelchair. “Suddenly I was thrust into a different world,” she said. “I was looking through the eyes of someone who had never been disabled or differently abled, and how society sees them and how they are treated, overlooked and denied opportunities.  “There is nothing wrong with my brain and my heart,” she said, “but I don’t receive the same respect I did before. It’s like since I am in a wheelchair, I might not understand what people are saying.”  Hood has written about her experience in the book The Cross Carries Me and is working on a second book.  “Things are not easy, and I am still in pain, but I just put it aside,” she said. “It’s nice knowing you can do something. All of us have something to give. Every last one of us can make a difference.”

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