With PNC Park's new adult-sized changing table, everyone can go -- and stay -- at the ballgame


With PNC Park's new adult-sized changing table, everyone can go -- and stay -- at the ballgame

Jordan McCloud, Pirates fan.

Patti McCloud’s 27-year-old son, Jordan, has been to about 40 baseball games at PNC Park. Some of those games were spent in private suites with a catered meal and personal refrigerator. But more than the snacks, he loves the music, rocking and smiling through each walk-up song and crowd-pleasing rocker.

He also enjoys the crowd’s rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch, but there’s a downside: That’s often the signal to go home.

Family Restroom Sign indicates the availability of an adult size changing table.It’s not that he gets tired. He doesn’t have especially early mornings. It’s simply that — like everyone — he has to use the bathroom. But unlike everyone, Jordan is “profoundly affected by autism,” as his mother describes. For him, that involves incontinence, and the need for an adult-sized changing table to stay anywhere longer than an hour or two.

Considering the travel time from their Mars-area home to the North Shore, that means seeing just a few innings. Or that was the case until the Pittsburgh Pirates installed a power height-adjustable adult changing table in the family restroom near The Crow’s Nest for the beginning of the 2023 season.

“It says that everyone can come here. Everyone is included,” Patti said. “It’s not just for a disabled young adult. There are elderly people with dementia, people with cerebral palsy, people who have bowel issues. It’s amazing. It’s just one more step toward being accepted in the community.”

The changing table’s addition is a huge win among Pirates fans who need it, but it makes PNC Park exceptional on a much broader scale – across all of Major League Baseball.

Christina Abernethy leads the Pennsylvania chapter of the national advocacy group Changing Spaces. One part of the group’s mission is to create an interactive map which marks restrooms with adult-sized changing tables. After Kauffman Stadium, where the Kansas City Royals play, PNC Park is only the second MLB stadium to install this type of accessibility resource.

Christina Abernethy leads the Pennsylvania chapter of the national advocacy group Changing Spaces.  Photo of Christina Abernathy and family. Cjh“They think, ‘If we’re ADA accessible, then we have everything we need.’ They think of ramps and accessible seating and elevators, but no one is ever really thinking about the restroom,” Christina, who was also the 2018 recipient of Achieva’s Family Supports Award of Excellence, said. “But if you have ramps and seating but you don’t have an accessible restroom, people still can’t come,” which she knows from personal experience.

One of Christina’s three children, 12-year-old Ethan, is autistic with an intellectual disability and low muscle tone, which requires assistance in the bathroom.

But not every situation is like a baseball game: You can’t always just choose to go home.

Despite packing bath towels and other supplies to create comfortable changing spaces where there aren’t any, she’s found herself cleaning her son on bathroom floors, in the back of their car or simply having to make him wait while they hurry home.

“All of those options are inhumane, undignified,” she said. “As women, we don’t even want to lay our purses on the floor, but we’re expected to lay our loved ones on the floor to clean them. What happens is families are staying home. They’re secluded from the rest of the world.”

That’s why, as a Changing Spaces advocate, she targets large facilities where families might like to spend several hours — like PNC Park — to start conversations that hopefully end with newly installed electronic, height-adjustable, adult-sized changing tables.

These conversations can take years and plenty of persistence on Christina’s part, but she understands the challenges. There’s a lot of “red tape.” The tables themselves are $7,000 to $9,000. The installation requires its own cost and planning. But she does it not only for her own child, but for “this very large population of people who are often forgotten.”

People like Jordan.

Though he hasn’t visited PNC Park yet this year, his mother and his direct support professionals can’t wait to take him. And he can’t wait to see a ninth inning.

“It just gives me goosebumps,” Christina said. “So many families are now able to go as a family and enjoy time together and make memories together at a game at PNC Park.”