A bill championed by a Sahuarita woman that would require diaper changing stations for babies and adults appears dead for the legislative session, but she doesn't plan to give up the fight.
HB2529 would have required a changing station to accommodate babies and adults or a station capable of serving both in new restrooms or substantially renovated restrooms in public buildings.
State Rep. Richard Andrade, a Glendale Democrat, introduced the bill, which made it through the Health and Human Services Committee with unanimous, bipartisan support.
Andrade said he originally focused on baby-changing tables but realized there was another community in need after being approached by a group advocating for adult tables.
“When it comes to these bills like this, we should be helping out our disability community and parents, because changing tables are greatly needed,” he said. “Who wants to change a baby or a young adult on the dirty bathroom floor?”
The bill failed to move forward when Rep. Anthony Kern, a Phoenix Republican, did not add it the Rules Committee agenda. Kern didn't return several phone calls.
Marianne Scott of Sahuarita has become the voice for a group trying to place adult changing stations in public places. Scott, a mother of three, has a 17-year-old daughter, Maycee, with cerebral palsy and incontinence.
In their Sahuarita home, Scott talks about their last trip to Disneyland while Maycee smiles at the thought of all the exciting sites there. But while Maycee can focus on the sounds and colorful characters, Scott has to focus on more practical matters like where to attend to her daughter’s restroom needs while preserving her dignity.
The lack of adult changing stations during outings often leaves Scott with a choice between avoiding certain places or having to resort to restroom floors.
At Disneyland, Scott’s only options for Maycee were a restroom floor, walk 45 minutes across the park to an aid station, or walk farther to the family van, she said.
Many times, even a single adult changing station is not available, leaving Scott to rely on restroom floors, she said.
And while Scott does have a van, she has found as Maycee gets bigger it is harder to use it for changing needs. Scott also points out that while she may be fortunate to have a van to use at times, many families do not. Some parents even carry small tents to privately change children in open spaces, she said.
Parents only want to provide their children with special needs the same dignity other children and adults are afforded, Scott said.
“To be able to walk out of our houses and go to Costco and we don’t have to change on the bathroom floor,” she said.
With Courtney Burnett and Susann “Susi Marie” Van Tienderen, Scott started a Facebook group advocating for accessible changing places. The group has more than 600 members and is a place to advocate for the cause and share experience, news and offer tips on methods and devices that have helped them and their loved ones with disabilities.
The Facebook group has also been a place for parents to vent their disappointment and outrage over what the members describe as an attempt by Kern to block a bill that had bipartisan support.
Scott says in a video posted to her personal Facebook account that she is sad the bill may die.
“We were on such a high last week from having bipartisan support and having a unanimous vote in the Health and Human Services Committee, and Rep. Andrade has been so awesome during this whole process, Madam Chair (Nancy) Barto has been amazing.”
The bill’s amendment to include adult changing tables during the HHS Committee came from Barto, a Phoenix Republican, after hearing testimony0 from the public.
Andrade says he and Barto could not convince Kern to hear the bill in the Rules Committee.
“Basically, (Kern) didn’t agree with what we were trying to do and everything and even though I mentioned that it didn’t impact small businesses, it didn’t matter to him,” Andrade said.
While the bill has stalled, Andrade said he and Barto are hopeful they can find a way to reintroduce it in this session or the next.
While the hope that HB2529 would continue has faded, Scott said she and others will continue to draw attention to what the Facebook group calls dignified changes.
“It still could be heard; I’m wondering, if we’ve got enough media and enough people, you know saying, ‘You have to do this, Kern,’'’ Scott said. “I don’t know who has the power to make him do it, but we’re not giving up.”
Jorge Encinas 520-547-9732