I was recently discussing with a colleague (a father of 4) that there is a new law which requires changing stations in both men’s and women’s bathrooms in certain buildings. He laughed because he couldn’t believe there was an enforceable law in place. Then he started to reminisce about changing his children’s diapers on his lap, the trunk of the car, and the hood—yes, the hood! (And, no, the car wasn’t running or hot.)
As a parent, this is a challenge of which I’m familiar. While dining, traveling, and shopping, I’ve been lucky enough to score a bathroom with changing facilities, but I’ve also met my fair share of those lacking this much appreciated modern-day convenience. For dads, they have it worse due to the absence of changing tables in men’s restrooms. I’ve seen my husband frustrated by the lack of compassion for diaper bag-toting parents.
I’m pleased to report on October 7th, President Obama signed a bill into law requiring changing stations to be available in the men’s and women’s restrooms of public federal buildings. The Congress.gov website states changing facilities should be “…physically safe, sanitary, and appropriate” for use. The new law titled ‘The Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES Act)’ is not fancy sounding, but who cares!?
I was surprised when I learned a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives agreed to the bill before being unanimously passed in the Senate. Many are praising this law, although there are those who feel the law doesn’t do enough and that it’s just a small step toward equality. I say it’s a positive start! Let’s celebrate the small victories. (Parents, I know you are silently applauding while reading this.)
Let’s face it, fathers have been dealing with the woes of changing diapers when out in public while harnessing their inner MacGyver, but oftentimes that means changing your little one on dirty floors, unsanitary countertops and car trunks. And for the women who have endured similar moments using their lap and passenger seat to get the job done, I would bet they are also in favor of all businesses installing changing stations in the restroom. At least designate one as family friendly, equipped with a changing table, turning a “unisex” restroom into an all-ages appropriate facility.
We often talk in the context of men versus women, but what about rethinking bathrooms in terms of family-friendly or child-friendly? Let’s think about who really has the disadvantage here—why are we discriminating against youngsters when it comes to providing basic needs in a public setting?
The full language of the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation or Babies Act can be viewed here https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5147
—Marra Chinn Allen, Marketing Coordinator & Office Manager