OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of Oklahomans is pushing to get universal changing tables in state restrooms, including at the State Capitol.
On Monday, Audra Beasley, her son, Max, and State Representative Mickey Dollens attached a lock to a chain-link fence to symbolize people with disabilities not having equal access to public restrooms.
“If you were to call any of our visitor stations and ask for restroom access for someone who’s outgrown the baby changing station, they will direct you to the floor and the restroom because that’s their only option,” said Audra Beasley.
Beasley’s son, Max, was born with Spina Bifida. It’s a condition that will keep Max using protective undergarments for a long time.
She told KFOR that she used a baby changing station for a while, but Max has since passed the weight requirement. She now uses her car when they visit state buildings.
“No one should have to go to their car to change a loved one or be naked in a parking lot in a building that receives federal funds,” said Beasley.
Right now, the Capitol requires a 24-hour notice if someone needs access to a universal changing table during a legislative session.
That’s only eight months a year. Otherwise, they are locked out.
Beasley told KFOR she had to hunt down eight people for access while lawmakers were out of session last week.
The 24-hour notice was the solution the American with Disabilities Act Coordinator for the House, Jennifer Shockley, requested prior to the Oklahoma Disability Law Center getting involved. That sparked a meeting with a bunch of attorneys representing the House and ODLC, approved by Senates council which led to having limited access to the ‘Dr. of the Day’ room.
But she knew House Bill 3015, which Representative Dollens and Senator Julia Kirt authored in the 2022 session, would have lifted that burden.
“Our bill would require an adult-size changing table, which is height adjustable and can hold up to 350 pounds, to be installed in the State Capitol,” said Rep. Dollens.
According to Dollens, HB 3015 received bipartisan support from the Department of Tourism and Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, and passed the House of Representatives 84-9 on March 23, 2022.
But when the bill went over to the Senate committee, it was killed by Senate Chairman, Paul Rosino.
“When asked why he wouldn’t hear our bill and at least give it an opportunity for questions and debates, he told me that it would set a precedent,” said Dollens.
“Senator Treat has [even] hired attorneys to fight restroom access for disabled Oklahomans,” said Beasley. “He’s spending our tax dollars fighting this process now.”
KFOR contacted Senators Greg Treat and Paul Rosino’s offices and has yet to receive a response.
Now, Beasley and Representative Dollens are encouraging people to attach locks to the chain-link fence, hoping it will change some Senators’ minds.
“When we come here to bring an issue to our legislators, our lawmakers, they should at least want to sit down with me,” said Beasley.
Dollens states it costs $128,000 to place eight universal changing tables across the state. Seven of those places include the tourism information centers.
On March 29, it was assigned to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Dollens told KFOR that HB 3015 sat in this committee awaiting a hearing for 15 days. It died on April 14.
The bill has to be re-filed again next year.