Jacksonville, FL (July 23, 2019) The 2019-2020 Council Year started off on a very special note. During the first City Council meeting on July 23rd of the new term, Council members approved Bill 2019-464 for adding Adult Changing Table requirements to be added to the State of Florida Building Code. The bill passed both of its assigned committees, unanimously, the week prior.
The ordinance would request to amend the Florida Building Code to add the requirement “to make adult changing tables available in newly constructed buildings or buildings that undergo substantial renovation” after January 1st of 2020. Adult changing tables are a very important necessity for the special needs’ community, yet very few places across the state of Florida have them.
According to the Census Bureau’s 2011-2015 American Community Survey, Jacksonville ranks #13 out of 48 Florida cities surveyed and the disability population totals to around 126,000 people. Even with such a high population count, there is not one reported adult changing table installed in Jacksonville. Councilman Becton introduced Bill 2019-464 in an effort to change that. His fellow colleagues were in full support and most of the Council Members requested to help by co-sponsoring the legislation.
The Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee (NCSPHS) approved Bill 2019-464, 7 to 0, on Monday, July 16th and the Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) committee approved the bill, 7-0, the following evening, July 17th. The bill also received support from the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA) and the Mayor’s office as Councilman Becton worked with all stakeholders in respecting how this new regulation might affect builders, developers and property owners.
Councilman Becton said this small victory could not have been accomplished without the parents and caretakers he had met while along the way, who advocated for this change and shared their stories at each committee meetings.
“The stories for which these parents told was heart felt,” Councilman Becton confessed. “The situation for which caretakers are placed in, trying to navigate their daily lives with children who are disabled goes beyond the average families understanding. Just trying to purchase groceries or taking care of routine shopping needs, it certainly got my attention that in larger facilities, where one might spend a considerable amount of time, help was required.”
Angel Miele is one of the many mothers who spoke at each meeting, sharing the reality which she and thousands of other parents who have children with ambulatory and self-care disabilities go through. Angel’s 8-year-old daughter has Rhett Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes mobility issues. Angel originally shared her daughter’s story with Councilman Becton during his first year in office back in 2015-2016. Councilman Becton was unsure at that time how they might go about addressing this issue, but never gave up hope or forgot about their encounter. It was filed it away , only waiting on an opportunity with right solution to occur while in office.
Fast forward three years, a similar bill, 2019-392 regarding Baby Changing Tables was introduced by Councilman Crescimbeni, which sparked Councilman Becton’s memory, recalling his previous conversation with Mrs. Miele. Councilman Crescimbeni’s bill looked to request a change to the Florida Building Code making baby changing tables mandatory in all public restrooms for specifically sized facilities. Certainly, this presented the same opportunity for an additional request that Councilman Becton saw for Adult Changing Tables, as well.
“The Florida Building Code is amended in cycles. The requests that we are looking to make, will ask the Florida Building Code Adjustment Board to consider these changes for state-wide passage.” explained Councilman Becton. “If state-wide passage is not approved, we are also asking that our county have the special exemption to supplement our code locally.”
During Mrs. Miele’s presentations at Committee & City Council, she explained the need for these changing tables along with several other mothers and caregivers that shared similar stories.
“Unfortunately, our babies don’t stay babies forever. I had no idea changing a diaper would be such a big challenge,” said Miele. “We found ourselves changing our children on filthy public restroom floors and in the back of vans and even in the front seat or truck of our cars.”
Manufactures of baby changing tables provide for only a 30-pound weight limit, which provides for a typical two to three-year old child. Toddlers typically begin potty training around that age and no longer need a changing table. However, toddlers with disabilities who are unable to use the restroom on their own, still do.
“Most parents will never appreciate what such a huge issue this is for parents for special needs kids,” said Councilman Becton. “After about two years of age, these children growing into adulthood, still require facilities allowing the ability to handle situations well above several hundred pounds.”
Adult Changing Tables are not only a necessity for parents of toddlers, who are too large for Baby Changing Tables, but they also benefit those who are non-ambulatory or have self-care issues, the elderly or those with incontinence issues, and people who have Catheters or Colostomies.
The Florida Department of Transportation recognized the need for Adult Changing Tables and has updated its building program to include these changing tables in newly built rest area, in addition to existing rest areas that are being remolded. As of July 2019, seven airports across the United States have installed adult changing tables to make traveling more accessible to children and adults with special need.
However, Florida has only four tables installed throughout the entire state. Only 26 have been so far installed and reported throughout the US. This number is low compared to the nearly 1,350 adult changing tables installed in the U.K.
Bill 2019-464 covers lots of larger facilities, retail square footage over 15,000 square feet and many other larger venues where one might spend a considerable amount of time. The Mayor has also committed to surveying all Duval County Public Buildings and implementing these standards for Baby Changing Table and Adult Table requirements with or without state approval.
Bill 2019-464 passed in July, but Councilman Becton said the work is not over. They are now compiling a separate bill collectively to be submitted to the State Building Standards Board in the next few months for their approval for both Baby and Adult Changing tables targeting January 1st, 2020 for this requirement.