|Mary Durheim, Chair
Andrew D. Crim, Vice Chair
Beth Stalvey, MPH, PhD, Executive Director
|6201 E. Oltorf, Suite 600
Austin, TX 78741-7509
|Phone: (512) 437-5432
Toll Free: (800) 262-0334
Fax: (512) 437-5434
Text of Verbal Testimony on HB 952
House Committee on State Affairs
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Good morning. My name is Scott Daigle, and I am representing the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities. We are a federally-funded state agency whose mission is to create change so that all people with disabilities are fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.
I am here to speak on the bill.
As the parent of a 16-month old, I am grateful for Vice-Chair Hernandez’ filing of HB 952, and for the committee’s consideration of it today.
Since becoming a parent, I’ve been greatly frustrated by the common lack of changing stations in Austin and throughout the state. I could tell you numerous stories of changing Cordelia–or Baby Coco as we call her–in conditions that are both less than ideal and less than sanitary.
I’ve changed her on wet countertops and blocked other people’s use of the faucets, moved candles and flowers off of small tables, and laid her on a stack of boxes just outside the bathroom.
Just this weekend, I had her balanced on a tiny sink, trying to replace her diaper while also keeping her from banging her head on the faucet, falling into the basin, or dropping to the floor.
But for all the trouble I face, there are families and caretakers of elderly adults and people with disabilities who deal with a much higher level of difficulty every time they venture out into the public.
And it’s their perspective that I’d like to share with you today.
I mentioned the difficulties that I have—and I imagine most of you have also experienced—changing a 25 pound toddler in public. But now imagine that you are trying to change a 75 pound teenager, or a 175 pound adult with Alzheimer’s disease and incontinence.
Accessible bathrooms work for many people who have mobility issues or are in a wheelchair. But for some who are non-ambulatory (such as those with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, seizure disorder, shaken baby syndrome, or profound cognitive deficit, to name some examples) and require assistance with toilet needs, there are few public bathrooms which they can use in a safe and dignified manner. If they venture outside the home and need to be changed, then typically the only options available are being placed on the bathroom floor, sitting in the lap of a person who is on the toilet, trying to navigate the change in their car, remaining soiled and unchanged, or just giving up and heading home.
This can all be highly unsanitary and super-humiliating.
That’s why the more likely scenario is that they don’t leave the home to begin with, which is antithetical to the idea of inclusion, the goal of enabling people with disabilities to be fully integrated into their communities.
To address this issue, states such as Florida and Georgia have begun to include adult changing stations in public facilities such as airports, state parks, and rest areas. And states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania are now considering legislation that would require such stations in public facilities that are new or receiving a significant upgrade. I would ask Texas lawmakers to do the same.
Ideally, public facilities would have at least one family bathroom with a powered height-adjustable adult changing table. But there are multiple styles of changing tables available, with a variety of price points.
And it’s worth noting that, in keeping with the concept of Universal Design, such stations can be used by children and adults alike.
So, HB 952 may be a vehicle for either a requirement or a study of the issue, or this may just be something to keep in mind for a future session.
But I wanted it to bring it to your attention, because for some people this really is about meeting a basic human need, and such a change would make all the difference in the world.
I am happy to answer any questions. Otherwise, I thank you for your consideration.
Public Policy Director
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities