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A Triumph for Democracy

On March 28, 2023, I was invited to the Wisconsin State Capitol for a press conference announcing the installation of a universal changing station.

This lengthy process began in January 2020 when I met with Darrin Smith, Building and Grounds Superintendent, to look at the family restroom and determine what changes would be possible. With a few modifications, such as removal of the urinal and baby changing station along with enabling the door to open outwards, there was enough space to install a powered, height-adjustable adult-size changing table!

Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit and the State Capitol meeting that was scheduled for April, was canceled. We were to discuss the modifications and the adult changing table at this time. Unfortunately, it took awhile to reschedule and see any further progress made.

In April 2022, the universal changing station made it on the committee agenda. I attended via Zoom and addressed the committee on the importance of this addition. The “YES” vote came back unanimously; a remarkable achievement for Wisconsin!

Government moves slower than this impatient advocate would like, but bids were put in to vendors and a tentative installation date of September 2022 was given. Sadly, the wait dragged for another six months.

The installation of the table, over three years after the idea was first discussed, is a huge triumph for democracy. Prior to this, students on field trips were either excluded from attending with their class or had to change in the janitor’s closet. In some cases, they were changed on legislator’s office floors. Lack of private, safe and hygienic places to change, is a barrier to the disabled community. They would like to participate in the democratic process, meet with state legislators and have the opportunity to speak at hearings.

The table is located in the family restroom on the ground floor, east wing.

Not only does this height-adjustable changing table provide a more inclusive and welcoming environment in the Capitol, but the surrounding area of Madison has also become more accessible. Until there is proper access to inclusive restrooms more widely available, an adult changing station that is in a public building becomes a base for wider community inclusion.

Senator Agard and State Representative Vining have been steadfast in their support of this issue. Although previously introduced legislation was unsuccessful, it is now included in the proposed budget.

If you would like to help, please contact your state legislators and ask them to support universal changing stations to remain in the final budget.

You can find your WI legislators here: Wisconsin Legislative District Viewer, and legislators in other states here: USA Legislators.

In addition, please submit a public comment to the Joint Committee on Finance.

Our voices need to be heard!

Written by Sarah Knowles

Wisconsin Chapter leader, Changing Spaces Campaign

May 1, 2023

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