Zoey Harrison, a 12-year-old born with cerebral palsy, has become a voice for change through two bills focused on increasing accessibility in public restrooms.
A young girl from Michigan is on a mission to make public restrooms more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Zoey Harrison, a 12-year-old born with cerebral palsy, has become a voice for change through two bills focused on calling attention to this issue and bringing about substantial steps to increase accessibility in public restrooms. According to WZZM, the teen recently met with Congressman John Moolenaar to discuss her ideas for change and urged him to make her voice heard on Capitol Hill. "Many of the public restrooms are disgusting," Zoey told Moolenaar. "When my mom and dad have to change me, it has to be done on the floor, which oftentimes is wet."
"There's this waterpark that we went to and when I went in to change out of my bathing suit, there were ants all over the floor," she added, emphatically. "I don't want to have to sit in ants." According to Good Morning America, Zoey's fight for change started back in late 2019 when she met with State Representative Graham Filler to discuss her ideas for increasing accessibility in public restrooms. In another proposed change, she suggested adding locations to accessible restrooms to the Michigan government website so that individuals with disabilities would know where the most suitable ones are and plan trips with their families accordingly.
Filler revealed that he is currently working hard to get two bills passed that came directly from Zoey's ideas. The youngster also left a lasting impression on Moolenaar — the representative for Michigan's 4th congressional district — following their meeting earlier this month. "You don't hear that from many 12-year-olds," he said of Zoey's ideas. "Most of us adults have never really had the chance to impact legislation, and here she is advocating both on the state and the federal level."
When asked whether he plans to take Zoey's ideas back to Washington D.C., Moolenaar said: "Yes. I will start researching the federal law [regarding public restroom handicapped accessibility] and learn what rules are currently in place. The wheelchair she uses is a different technology than perhaps had been used in the past. I'll look at the federal law and see what can be updated to reflect new technologies as well as the new norms." Zoey, who uses a power wheelchair, was also thrilled with how the meeting with the Congressman went. "I'm so excited," she said. "He loved my ideas and he said he thinks he can do something."
"It went really good," Zoey shared. "He said, 'Those are great ideas. He said, 'I never knew that was a problem.'" Zoey was adopted by her mom, Jennifer Harrison of Ithaca, Michigan, when she was a 1-year-old. "I'm so amazed by her," Harrison said. "[Cerebral palsy] doesn't stop her from reaching her goals to help a whole bunch of people and she's not shy or afraid to speak up." In addition to pushing bills to further her cause, the teen would also like to see more family restrooms and create maps so people know the locations. She hopes to visit amusement parks, restaurants, stores, and examine the facilities herself to check whether they meet Zoey's approval as well as that of the checklist's under her proposed bills.
"I'm excited to make a change," she said. "I'm happy people are listening to me." Zoey plans to be a 911 operator when she grows up. Sharing some advice for her peers, she said: "Always be kind and helpful and no matter what, you can make a difference."