When it comes to changing diapers, New York City is on the verge of potty parity.
Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday signed into law a bill requiring all new public restrooms — regardless of gender designation — have baby changing tables. The lack of the stations in men’s rooms around the city sparked the legislation.
“The way our society has organized things, it’s a message to men to not do their fair share,” de Blasio said at a City Hall media conference to celebrate the signing. “If you can’t find a changing station it literally bakes in those stereotypes, and it inhibits men from doing what they need to do more and more, which is step up. So today is a day to celebrate the idea that all caretakers need to be respected, that all caretakers need to be able to do this precious work.”
The law applies to new construction accessible to the public such as restaurants, theaters, retail stores and more. Current establishments that undergo major renovations will also need to add bathroom changing tables. The new law takes effect later this year.
The NYC City Council approved the changing table bill in December after being introduced by Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal. Espinal said he was inspired after watching a father struggle to change his child’s diaper while the infant lay on a bathroom sink in a mall.
“Parents should be changing their children’s diapers with a little more dignity, in a space that’s sanitary,” he told HuffPost in a Dec. 11 article.
The changing table revolution
The lack of diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms has grabbed the national spotlight a few times in recent years in the debate over parenting equality. In 2015, actor Ashton Kutcher complained about the problem on social media. The next year, President Obama drew more eyes and ears to the issue when he signed legislation requiring federally owned buildings to install changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms.
NYC and City Dads Group garnered attention for the cause in October 2015. The Upworthy video website interviewed co-founder Lance Somerfeld, showing him needing to change his daughter’s diaper on a park bench. The video has received more than 590,000 views to date.