Almost every parent has experienced the horror of walking into a public restroom with a poopy baby and discovering that there's no changing table to be found. And although it happens to both moms and dads, it's something dads experience slightly more often because too many establishment owners wrongly assume that only moms are handling diaper changes. That's why a New York law that went into effect on January 1 is seeking to level the playing field by making it mandatory to have changing tables in every men's and women's restroom in the state.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the change in April as part of the state's 2018 Women's Agenda.
“New York proudly leads the nation in fighting for the rights of working parents, and by ensuring access to these amenities, we will help ensure all New Yorkers can give their children the care they need at this critical stage of their lives,” Cuomo said in a statement obtained by People.
The change comes by updating the state's Uniform Building Code to require that all newly built buildings have changing tables. Per the update, there must be at least one changing table accessible to both genders per publicly accessible floor and building owners must post signs letting parents know where to find the changing tables. The change doesn't apply to the bathrooms in existing buildings unless they're undergoing extensive renovations.
The bill was originally introduced by New York Senator Brad Hoylman, who has a young daughter with his husband, David.
It closely mimics a separate changing table bill passed in 2017 that applied only to New York City. In an op-ed about his changing table legislation, Hoylman wrote, "Since 1989, the number of stay-at-home dads has more than doubled, climbing to more than 2 million by 2010. Women now constitute fully half of the American workforce and serve as breadwinners for 40 percent of households. Even more dramatic, amongst married couples nationwide, well over a majority are dual-income. Fathers can and should share in the care of their children and are increasingly picking up the slack in heterosexual relationships. Yet, despite this rebalancing of responsibilities, society still places a disproportionate share of parental obligations on women."
The change has many people saying it's about damn time.
In 2015, actor Ashton Kutcher went viral when he posted on Facebook that he was tired of men's restrooms never having changing tables. In 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act, which required federal buildings to have changing tables in both the men's and women's restrooms.
New York's new law is one more strong push in the fight for everyone to have access to changing tables, and we can only hope that other states will follow its lead.
This post was originally published on mom.me sister site CafeMom.