In ensuring that baby-changing accommodations are found in publicly accessible men’s, women’s and gender-neutral restrooms, or by offering a separate area for diaper changing, local lawmakers would make life easier for every family, allowing all parents to carry the weight of everyday child care. Co-introduced by council members Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At large), the Equal Access to Changing Tables Amendment Act unsurprisingly has majority support in the 13-member council. Only New York and California have ratified similar legislation.
If passed, the proposed bill would ensure that every floor of all publicly accessible city buildings would have diaper-changing accommodations for use by anyone. In the private sector, newly constructed businesses or spaces for public use, as well as any existing businesses undergoing renovations of more than $10,000, would also have to make the change.
As lawmakers debate the bill in the coming months, they should be doing as much as possible to alleviate any structural or economic concerns the new legislation would pose for local entrepreneurs. A diaper-changing station costs only a few hundred dollars, but this cost coupled with spatial constraints could be enough to deter small businesses. One step council members should consider is providing rebates for installing diaper-changing stations — echoing their Private Security Camera Rebate Program, which provides businesses with up to $750 to offset camera costs.
When diaper-changing stations were widely added into female bathrooms in the 1980s, it was excusable, or at least understandable, to not make the same accommodations accessible to fathers. In today’s social climate, the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms is something lawmakers and businesses nationwide should be addressing. This is not the most pressing issue in the D.C. area, but it is a small change that would positively affect the everyday lives of many families.