Supporters say a bill headed to Gov. Doug Ducey's desk requiring adult changing stations in new or renovated state buildings is a big first step, but will have little immediate impact for those who need them now.
The bill, expected to be signed next week, would not require adult changing stations in malls, restaurants or other private venues, as backers originally wanted. But a group of mothers that started a grassroots movement to raise awareness still call it a victory.
HB2113 had bipartisan support and would require installation of a changing station for adults and babies in newly constructed or renovated state buildings.
One of the mothers who started the group, called Dignified Changes, is Sahuarita resident Marianne Scott, who has a 17-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy.
"This is a win for me and my family, but there is a lot of work still to be done, where I can walk out my front door and have something I can use in Sahuarita and Green Valley to be able to still use the restroom and not have to return back home," Scott said.
The bill would require at least one changing station per building and affects only state government buildings; counties, towns and cities are not mandated to have stations. There are exemptions when the installation would conflict with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act, for historical buildings and those which are not frequented by the public or when installation is deemed unfeasible. The bill applies to new construction and renovations approved on and after Jan. 1, 2020.
HB2113, originally HB2529, was introduced by Glendale Democratic Rep. Richard Andrade, but stalled in the House after Rep. Anthony Kern, a Phoenix Republican, blocked it.
Requirements for changing stations in private businesses such as restaurants and entertainment venues were removed from HB2529 in committee to give it a better chance at passing.
Currently, major renovations requiring adult changing stations are defined as costing “at least $50,000 and that totally removes all nonstructural interior walls, floor and ceiling finishes, mechanical systems, electrical systems and plumbing fixtures and supply and waste lines.”
The bill passed in the House, 56-2, with Kern one of the opposition votes.
"I have an elderly person living with me that wears an adult diaper," Kern said. "So, I get what's trying to be done here, and my heart goes out to the people behind the bill. But the thing I don't like, being a conservative, is running legislation now mandating state facilities have adult changing tables."
They back it
Jon Meyers, executive director of The Arc of Arizona, a Phoenix group that advocates for those with developmental disabilities, said the bill is an important step.
“It certainly does not go as far as we would like it to go,” Meyers said. “It’s a great step forward, but there’s still a lot of work to do to assist these individuals and their families to ensure they have a clean, sanitary place to be changed when they are out in public settings.”
At the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Erica McFadden, executive director, said there is great significance in the fact that just one or two states have anything like this.
“It makes total sense when you look at the population in Arizona that’s growing older,” McFadden said. “Publicly funded buildings are to serve as this example of accessibility.”
April Reed, vice-president of advocacy at Ability360, an Arizona organization involved in disability support, advocacy and instruction, said the watered-down bill is still a big win.
"It might not impact a large number of restrooms, but we do look at it as an important first step as far as building awareness and giving families and people with disabilities more options to be independent in the community and know that when they go out in the community, there's some options for them in the restroom," Reed said. "So we understand that it won't impact a lot of physical buildings at this point."
Rep. Gail Griffin, a Republican from Hereford who reintroduced the legislation in the strike-all bill HB2113, said testimony at the Health and Human Services Committee opened her eyes to the needs.
"I don't think there's a lot of people that realize the circumstance unless they have a loved one that they care for," she said.
Dignified Changes started with three mothers and has expanded into a Facebook group with 744 followers.
Andrade also credits Dignified Changes for bringing awareness to the need for adult changing stations as a major factor in gaining bipartisan support.
"They played a tremendous part in sharing their stories and we can thank them for bringing awareness," he said.
Scott said the process was an eye-opener in how the legislative process works and how her expectations have had to adjust in getting to this point. Having lived with the concerns and issues surrounding day-to-day inequities for those with disabilities was forefront in her mind when she first met Andrade, she said.
"I was going in and saying this is a need, this is an inequality and I should not have to come and sit down and ask for this," Scott said. "I still believe that at heart, but I find it really interesting that I have to go and ask for the common thing afforded to you and I, to an able-bodied person. That I have to go and ask for an appropriate place for my daughter to have dignity."
While still passionate for appropriate facilities and equal access for those with disabilities, Scott did see the need to pull back as she began to see how politics played a role in getting this piece of legislation passed.
For Scott and Dignified Changes, the bill is the first step in starting a conversation and achieving greater access for the disability community. That includes pushing for stronger bills, seeking more advocacy organizations to join Dignified Changes, and looking at options at the federal and state levels, she said.
"I know, personally, that when this whole bill gets signed into law that I'm not going to go home and brush off my hands and say, 'We did it, this is a done deal,'" Scott said. "I think there are good people. I have to believe that the majority of human beings have a heart and that they can learn something new, shift their paradigms and consider the possibilities of how they change the world to make it better without being mandated."