Lailah Martone, just shy of seven years old, has global delays and is not even close to being potty-trained. While her size may be smaller than her peers, weighing in at thirty pounds and standing forty inches tall, she is still way too big to fit on the infant-sized changing tables found in most public restrooms, which has presented her mother, Catherine Martone, with many challenges.
As a mom of typical and non-typical children, I’ve always had challenges with the changing tables. I never realized how many bathrooms don’t even have a regular sized changing table in it and how many men’s bathrooms don’t either. As Lailah grew and remained in diapers, it hit even harder. If a public place has a changing table in the bathroom, it’s made for a small infant usually under the size of an average 2 yr old. Lailah’s legs dangle over the edge and if she was heavier, I’m not sure I’d be able to lift her up onto it to change her. 9 out of 10 times, I have to go out to my car, which luckily I have an SUV and can change her in my car…but when it’s freezing cold, pouring rain or even 100 plus degrees out, these aren’t ideal conditions. One time in particular on an hour and twenty minute ferry ride across the Long Island Sound, I was presented with a challenge because the ferry had no changing tables, which they claim was for safety reasons, and they directed me to my car to change her. Now that might be easy for someone who has a small infant, but the cars are less than a foot apart and we were traveling with a trunk full of luggage. Public places completely lack a changing room for families with children who have disabilities, families with children who are incontinent, in wheelchairs, etc.
Unfortunately, Catherine is not alone in sharing this stressor when going out in public with her child. As difficult as it is for her, it proves to be even more challenging for caregivers of adolescents and adults. Caregivers are oftentimes left with no option other than putting their adult-sized children or loved ones onto dirty restroom floors, which is physically difficult to do in a safe manner, as well as unsanitary and inhumane. As it stands now, neither the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) nor other wide-reaching laws mandate adult-sized, height-adjustable changing tables in public restrooms. That’s why caregivers around the globe are banding together to push for them. With their persistence, several bills have been drafted, yet many have not passed.
State representatives, upon the urging of caregivers across the country, are pushing for legislation mandating the installation of adult changing stations to help those in need of such accommodations, including older children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, incontinence, and more. In 2015, California passed a law (AB-662) requiring certain venues to install and maintain adult changing stations constructed on or after January 1, 2020 or renovated after January 1, 2029, and just last year, Arizona followed suit pushing for similar legislation (HB 2113), which was signed into law in 2019. Earlier this year, Michigan’s Representative Lori Stone introduced a bill (HB 5409) which mandates buildings built after 2022 or renovated after 2025, with the capacity of serving upwards of 1,500 people daily to install adult-sized changing tables. Bills requiring the installation and maintenance of adult changing stations at highway rest areas in Iowa (HF 2097), requiring public buildings to have adult changing stations in Ohio (SR 455), and providing for changing stations in places of public accommodation in Pennsylvania (HB 117) have also been proposed. Florida Senate Bill 1106
and House Bill 669 are two other examples of propositions calling for similar accommodations, which have not passed.
Until these bills are passed, and all states follow suit, businesses will not be required to make any accommodations to their existing restrooms; however, the businesses that do install adult-sized changing tables may open their doors to more customers, creating a more inclusive world with dignity for more individuals.