IOWA LEGISLATURE

Bill would require adult changing stations at Iowa rest stops

The rest area on I-80 westbound at mile marker 208 in Iowa County on Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2017. (The Gazette)
The rest area on I-80 westbound at mile marker 208 in Iowa County on Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2017. (The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Families and organizations representing Iowans with disabilities voiced support for installing adult changing stations in highway rest stops.

House File 2097 would require the Iowa Department of Transportation to install and maintain adult changing stations in facilities at rest areas.

The bill was forwarded to the House Transportation Committee after a subcommittee heard support for an issue many people haven’t heard about, according to Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge.

“It’s an issue that whenever I share with somebody, it has never crossed their minds,” said Meyer, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Kristin Sunde, D-West Des Moines.

According to the Iowa Data Center, in 2018 more than 118,000 adult Iowans reported an independent living disability. That could include physical, mental and emotional illness as well as those with Alzheimer’s disease, intellectual disabilities or who have suffered a stroke.

Families with developmentally disabled members are aware of the challenge of finding an appropriate place to attend to their needs, Meghan Malloy of Clive told the three-member panel of lawmakers Thursday.

Much of her life involves traveling with her 70-pound, 10-year-old son to and from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minn., and his father’s home in Maine.

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“This very specific need ... is hard for a lot of parents to talk about,” Malloy said. “It’s extremely humiliating to put your almost 11-year-old child on the floor to change him. He’s still a kid. He still has dignity. Why should I be doing this on the floor?”

As a parent, Malloy wished the bill went further to require changing stations in public buildings so developmentally disabled children would be able “to engage with the community, engage with differently developing peers.”

“However, we have to start somewhere,” said Malloy, who as a lobbyist knows the legislative process.

Several speakers at the hearing seconded her sentiment. Changing stations are necessary to fully integrate developmentally disabled Iowans into their communities, they said.

IDOT is aware of the need, the agency’s lobbyist Susan Fenton said.

However, older rest stops cannot be reconfigured to accommodate adult changing stations. Only four of the new facilities could be retrofitted — at a cost of about $20,000 each, she said.

IDOT is not planning any new rest stop construction, Fenton said, but the department is seeking public comment on its rest stop system.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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