National Autism Awareness Month

This Mom Is Creating A Hair Salon For People With Disabilities To Make Their Experiences Better

"A safe place for all people with physical or intellectual differences."

Cat Rongitsch is a hairstylist with 10 years of experience, and a mom of two daughters with functional needs — Maddy, her 9-year-old step-daughter, is paraplegic and in a wheelchair due to spina bifida, and Betty, her 3-year-old, has cognitive disabilities. 

Because of this, she really understands that haircuts can be an upsetting experience for those with intellectual and physical differences.

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And she wants to do something about it by creating an accessible salon that caters to those with functional needs.

Rongitsch has launched a GoFundMe campaign called Dignified Beauty to raise money to create an accessible salon in St. Paul, Minnesota, and to turn her dream into a reality.

She cites a 2015 viral video of a hairstylist laying on the ground, next to a boy with autism, and cutting his hair as one of the ways stylists have helped those with disabilities. But her goal is to make helping people of all needs and abilities a standard practice at her salon.

On the campaign page, the Minnesota-based mom writes about the difficulties those with functional needs can encounter at hair salons and how her inclusive space will take these into consideration:

"When you have a family member that's different, you suddenly view the world with new eyes. You see handicap access through back entrances. Strangers address caregivers instead of the individual. Nevermind  [sic] the stares! As a beauty professional with daughters that have challenges I know that there are aspects of a salon that can create obstacles for some individuals to have a positive experience . Will the building be accessible? Will there be loud music? Chemical smells? What if I need a break? How will the staff react to my differences? Getting a bad haircut can be low on the list of concerns. I hate that truth. That's why I am opening a salon in St Paul. It's a safe place for all people with physical or intellectual differences to get services with dignity. To ensure I'm getting it right, I am partnering with top medical professionals to give us the tools to best accommodate differences and create accessibility. I've been tapping friends and family for guidance from their experiences. I've been talent scouting for salon and spa professionals that will be excited about our mission. We're looking for a location. Now all I need is you. I do have some funding, but it's less than half of what we need. $25,000+ can get this off the ground. If you believe in this idea, or if you love someone who could benefit from a place like this, please, consider a donation. Every penny helps. Thank you for all your cheers and kind words too. Seriously. Every bit of support matters. Thank you for your generous support!"

Since the campaign was launched, Rongitsch has raised over $7,000 in 22 days.

Rongitsch explained to HuffPost how she has worked at salons over the years that weren't accessible, and this presented challenges when her daughter needed to get her hair cut. Rongitsch explained, "There's so much anxiety and fear for the whole family going to the salon. It's a big deal, so having me come in helps alleviate some of that. There should be a place for it."

Cover image via akkmesterke I Shutterstock

(H/T: Popsugar)

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