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Accessible diaper changing stations

Baby changing station in a public restroom.

Dads need to change diapers too!

Proposed law would make public restroom changing tables accessible to men

While we’re talking about equities . . . let’s throw in the baby diaper changing station imbalance into the mix. 

Washington has no specific laws related to diaper-changing stations. With the exception of federal buildings located in the state, no other business or public building is required to provide diaper-changing facilities to parents with kids. But for those that do take this step for families, stations are most often relegated to women’s restrooms. 

That means that for too long, dads have been getting off poop duty during family outings while moms are stuck with the load.

“I’m a public health nurse and a mom of two young children,” Snoqualmie resident Alexandra Johnson recently told state lawmakers. “For years, whenever my family goes out or patronizes restaurants, I’m always the one doing the diaper changing. It’s not that my husband isn’t willing. Neither of us [have] other options most of the time.”

HB 2052: Fairness in diapering

If Rep. Lisa Callan, D-Issaquah, has any say in the matter, the injustice will end. 

Callan is the sponsor of House Bill 2052, which would require that baby changing stations be installed in at least one restroom accessible to men at any new or newly renovated public access buildings and businesses in Washington – including restaurants and many other businesses. The accessible changing station could be in a restroom used by both men and women or a gender-neutral restroom. 

If turned into law, the new requirements would not apply to industrial buildings, commercial buildings that do not admit people under 18, or to restrooms in health care facilities — if the restroom is intended for only one patient at a time and is not for public use. 

“The passage of this bill would mean a more equal partnership of childcare responsibilities across genders in public,” Johnson stressed. “[It] would allow single dads, two Dad households, uncles, grandfathers, other caregivers other than women to perform diaper changes in public — an option that often isn’t available.” As a nurse, Johnson said she believes HB 2052 would also reduce the number of diaper rashes and infections that babies and toddlers experience due to parents being unable to provide timely diaper changes when out and about.

“I witnessed this in public health all the time,” she said. “Most importantly, what are the implications for our children when they see that mom is the only one providing care.? This is what I think about with my children when we go out.”

During the hearing on January 23 before the House Local Government Committee, Representatives of the Washington Hospitality Association and the Washington Food Industry Association lauded Rep. Callan’s flexibility in working with them to ensure that if the law passes, it does not conflict with the tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act or become an insurmountable hurdle for businesses, especially small ones in the state.

A tug at the hearts of lawmakers who are parents

In news reports about the bill, Rep. Callan said she thought 2024 might be a good year for moving a diaper change bill through the legislature. There are several lawmakers currently sitting in House and Senate seats who have young children at home.

And, making diaper-changing stations accessible to men and women is not a new concept. The Federal Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (or BABIES) Act became law in 2016 and requires that at least one restroom on each floor in federal buildings have one baby changing table accessible to all genders.

The act stipulates that restrooms that do not have a changing table must post clear and conspicuous signage indicating where a restroom with a baby changing table can be located. Several states have followed suit, requiring stations not only in federal buildings but in state government buildings as well. A handful of states require them in all buildings or businesses with public access to toilets.

Listen and/or weigh in

To learn more about HB 2052 or listen to testimony as it continues its journey through the Washington State Legislature, go to the bill’s webpage. If you have a say about ensuring parents of all sexes have access to diaper changing stations in public spaces, reach out to your lawmaker with your comments or opinions. Find your lawmaker’s contact information on the legislature’s Member Contact webpage.

Read more:

Leg 2024: Ensuring early support for 0 to 2

Grandmothers to lawmakers: Protect kids from guns

State trust funds for low-income babies?

An agenda for children in 2024

 

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Seattle Child Staff

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