Local family advocating for adult changing tables

March 14, 2019 07:07 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) - Using the bathroom in public is something a lot of us do without thinking and we probably take it for granted. But families all across the state, using the bathroom with a child with disabilities is tough. Parents of children with special needs struggle to find places to change their diapers.

Nanci Bentley lives in Gorham with her husband and son MJ. Eight-year-old MJ has a very rare disease called Pallister Killian Syndrome. MJ uses a wheelchair and is unable to use the bathroom on his own. Bentley says in the Rochester area they have only found one adult changing table, and that's at a medical facility.

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Any other time this family changes their son on rest stop floors or in the car. Bentley and her family travel throughout the state frequently for MJ's medical care and she has noticed there are not many if any throughout our region and statewide. Bentley is speaking up about this hoping to get help to get more adult changing tables in the state.

"He's just as entitled to the toilet as anybody else and I feel very strongly about that," Bentley said. "Sometimes we have to plan everything we do around where we can toilet him, so it really brings to mind I wonder what other people do in those situations."

Bentley says it's not just about MJ. Hundreds of families and caretakers across the state also have the same problem. 

"People should have access to be changed anywhere, if we're being ADA compliant I feel that is just an added touch," Bentley said. "As a society, we've come so far with inclusion and being accessible, why not consider this as well."

Bentley reached out to her state senator Pamela Helming about this. Since then, Helming has written a letter to the governor asking for $1 million in the 2019-2020 state budget to implement full-service family restroom facilities that include adult changing tables. 

In a statement to News10NBC, Helming says, "Currently, all new or substantially renovated buildings must provide safe and compliant changing tables for children in public restrooms. However, this does not address the limited accommodations for adults and older children with special needs who also need changing facilities in public buildings. An adult changing table allows caretakers to conveniently and safely assist individuals who may be unable to fully care for themselves. As the budget process continues, I urge the Governor, Senator Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie to consider this request seriously. We cannot leave New York State without spaces in public rest areas for caretakers to privately and comfortably attend to the needs of people with disabilities. I will keep fighting to make sure this crucial funding is included as part of this year's budget or through legislation."

News10NBC reached out to state officials about this. A spokesman from the official of general services sent a statement reading, " The state is currently studying how best to meet the need that parents and caretakers of adults with special needs have for changing tables in places of public accommodation, such as highway rest stops, parks, and stadiums."

The Center for Disability Rights (CDR) has also been very active in advocating for more adult changing tables. A policy analyst says that New York has taken a step in the right direction by acknowledging the need for these facilities, and CDR is looking forward to action on this issue.

Bentley would also like to see some of of app or online interface where people can go to find the nearest adult changing facility.


Kaci Jones

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