Adult changing facilities are focus of bill introduced by Harckham and Rolison

The Democratic and Republican state senators are backing the “Traveling with Dignity Act” for people with disabilities.

From left to right: State Sens. Rob Rolison and Pete Harckham, CP Unlimited Hudson Valley Executive Director Penny Pagliaro and Diego Ortiz)

From left to right: State Sens. Rob Rolison and Pete Harckham, CP Unlimited Hudson Valley Executive Director Penny Pagliaro and Diego Ortiz) Austin Jefferson

Democratic state Sen. Pete Harckham said that the issue of travel accommodations for people with disabilities first came to his attention about a year ago when he wondered why more had not attended a rally in Albany.

“(CP Unlimited Hudson Valley Executive Director) Penny Pagliaro said we could have had twice as many people here but they couldn't travel. And I pressed her further, why couldn't they travel,” Harckham said at an event at CP Unlimited in Brewster on Monday. “They can't go beyond two hours without having access to an adult changing facility. Now we've all seen family changing facilities with changing tables for young people up to say 50 or 60 pounds but there's nothing for adult changing facilities, whether they be people who are born with differing abilities, whether they be our wounded warriors who come back from serving our country with traumatic injuries, whether they just be folks in everyday life (that) had a traumatic injury in a car accident or something at work and that's just not right.”

The Peekskill lawmaker was joined by his colleague from the neighboring district, state Sen. Rob Rolison, a Republican from Poughkeepsie, as they introduced the Traveling with Dignity Act

The bill would mandate that rest stops, amusement parks, libraries and other public buildings built after Jan. 1 2024 have at least one adult changing table installed. The bill would also require that existing public buildings have at least one adult changing table installed by 2027. Museums and libraries would need to make the addition by 2029 and amusement parks by 2031. 

Many public restrooms have support bars and other installations to help accommodate people with disabilities but some have greater needs. When those are not met, the results can be disastrous. 

Diego Ortiz, who receives care at CP Unlimited, said, “When I went up to Albany, I stayed in the hotel. But I had a hard time getting inside the bathroom and I had to literally get out of my chair and claw to get to the toilet and that was, that was tough.”

While Harckham’s bill doesn’t include hotels in its list of buildings that will add accommodations, it does state that government buildings will have to update their offerings. He noted that the Legislative Office Building in Albany doesn’t provide adult changing tables and that would change under the bill. 

Betty Williams, who also receives care at CP Unlimited, said that issues like this are an example of people with disabilities not having their voices heard. “Nobody was listening to us,” Williams said. 

Harckham said he doesn’t foresee any issues getting bipartisan support for the bill, having already garnered Rolison’s. 

“When it comes to the disability community we’ll have no trouble getting co-sponsors for this,” he told City & State.