Max was smiling and laughing as he joined other kids and adults chalking “Max’s Law” onto one of the many concrete surfaces at the skate park in Manuel Perez Park Sunday.
The event drew attention to the need for universal changing stations in restrooms that allow for older children and adults who need their attendants to attend to their personal hygiene needs for them during the workday to be able to do so with cleanliness and dignity.
Currently, those who need that level of care and weigh more than a baby just have to lie on the floor of a public restroom for the process.
Max was born with spina bifida and other challenging conditions that will make it necessary to keep him in protective underwear much longer than many other children. (See the story of Max provided by his parents at the bottom.)
His parents then became aware of adults who have the same needs for a caregiver to have someplace to change them during the workday or just on long trips away from home.
Also, it is estimated that over 10% of aging adults over 65 need such care, too.
Parents “really encouraged”
Audra Beasley was smiling at the turnout of adults and children in support of her youngest son, Max and the proposed law named after him. His older two brothers, Gabe and Wesley were there, too.
“I’m really encouraged,” said Beasley. “And I think that the state of Oklahoma is going to do what’s right here. I think it’s a problem that goes unseen. And once you know the problem, it’s hard to un-see it.”
She said that at present there are only three facilities in the state that she knows of that have “accessible restrooms” like the ones she is proposing. The Children’s Center in Bethany, the Oklahoma City Zoo, and the Tulsa Zoo have changing tables for larger people than just babies.
We tried talking to Max about it, but just like many pre-k-aged boys, he was too busy drawing with the chalk and playing with the other kids.
Max’s dad, Ty, and Audra have been married for 20 years.
Ty is a special education teacher in Norman and works with special needs students who are designated as having severe and profound needs. So for him, having Max adds the personal, family dimension to what he does every school day.
“This means a lot to me, both professionally and as a parent,” said Ty. “So yeah, just the outpouring and the support that we’re getting is just incredible. And it kind of leaves you speechless.”
Max’s Law has been introduced by southside Oklahoma City Representative Mickey Dollens to require all state-owned facilities to have changing stations that will accommodate older children and adults, not just babies as changing stations currently do.
The requirements will take effect the next time a state building is remodeled, which gives some time for agencies to catch up with the law if passed.
Dollens told Free Press at the event that the measure, numbered HB3952, has “bipartisan support” and has been getting positive responses from his colleagues.
And, because some adults who need care during the day could be employed if they and their caregivers had facilities to do so, Dollens says the bill is also an “equal employment opportunity bill.”
The east section of the skate park was taken up by adult supporters and other children who came in support of Max and the legislation.
One supporter was Ruth Keneda.
“I try to do everything I can to support everyone,” said Keneda. “And it’s about everybody having the same access, the same outreach, and just being able to experience life.”
Pediatric Physical Therapist Robert Long told Free Press that the kids he works with every day have needs for access to public buildings without having to be changed on the restroom floor.
“I just see so many kids on a daily basis who would benefit from this law,” said Long. “So it’s kind of become something that’s important to me as well. And I think it’s a good cause.”
Audra Beasley thought it would be a good idea to give out some sort of symbol, a remembrance of her visit when she started visiting with legislators and even writing to members of Congress about her concerns.
She came across a unique Hot Wheels toy Mattel produced called a “Wheelie Chair” the company says is “inspired by the one Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham uses to do extreme stunts. Get an idea of what he does in this video below.
At first, Audra bought a few on her own. Then others started donating them so she could send the unique reminders to all members of Congress.
Then she got a surprise.
“I drove up one day, and I saw these two boxes sitting on my doorstep from Mattel. And it was a humbling moment,” Audra said. “It was very gracious of them to send them to me.”
She said that the 100 she got that day put her over the top in the number she had to send to members of Congress to get them to consider a federal bill similar to the one Dollens has introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature.
If you want to help with this effort and find others who are already engaged go to their Facebook page, OK Changing Stations.Hi-Im-Max