November 27, 2022
By: Dwayne Page
We are all familiar with baby changing stations in public restrooms as they provide a great service for parents when they are out and about. But what if you have an elderly or disabled person who has the same needs?
Sarah Cripps, local attorney and a member of the Tennessee Council for Developmental Disabilities, addressed the county commission during a committee meeting of the whole Tuesday night asking that adult-size changing tables be obtained for the courthouse and perhaps other county facilities regularly open to the public. Cripps said grants are available to help fund the cost of them. She also asked that the county update the restrooms in the courthouse to make them more handicapped accessible.
“I wanted to make you aware of some grant funding that is available for putting an adult size changing table in any space that is regularly open to the public. There are adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as many aging seniors who can’t fully participate in the life of a community because they don’t have facilities available to them for hygienic toileting and privacy. I would ask you to consider that. The grant is super easy to apply for and if approved it would defray all or part of the cost to purchase that kind of a table and perhaps put one in the courthouse,” said Cripps.
“Another issue I have noted is that there is not one single ADA compliant toilet in the entire courthouse. I feel like we have public spaces and its my duty as a taxpayer and the duty of all of us to maintain them and make them accessible, not just to sighted people who can walk on two legs but to all of us. I am proud of our public buildings, and I would encourage you to consider making our public spaces ADA accessible,” Cripps continued.
Cripps said toileting is a common need for adults who are aging or have disabilities and other conditions. Many adults and children need access to changing spaces that are larger than a baby changing table. She said everyone deserves a safe, dignified, and clean toileting experience. Without adult-sized changing tables, those who need them must choose between changing in an unhygienic setting – like on a restroom floor – or remaining isolated from the community if they experience incontinence issues.
Adult-size, height-adjustable changing tables promote community inclusion. They offer safe, private, and hygienic toileting options to everyone. Approximately 200,000 Tennesseans, 4% of the population need help with one or more activities of daily living, such as toileting.
The State of Tennessee is offering grants to increase the availability of adult size changing tables.
Applications may be made through the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for a grant of $5,000 per changing table. The program will pay for 200 tables across the state.
In April, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to invest $1 million to increase access to adult-size changing tables across the state. Because of this advocacy, the Department of Transportation has agreed to install changing tables in all rest areas and welcome centers and the Department of Environment and Conservation has agreed to install changing tables in all state parks.