A new law will give fathers in New York access to changing tables in public restrooms.

By Char Adams
Napawadee Thaisonthi/Shutterstock

A New York law will give fathers access to changing tables in public restrooms, with the new rule going into effect this year.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced back in April that the state would provide diaper changing stations in public buildings — including everything from restaurants to parks — as part of its 2018 Women’s Agenda, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“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.

Changes to the state’s Uniform Building Code will require all “new or substantially renovated buildings ” with public bathrooms to have “safe and compliant changing tables.”

“Changing tables will be available to both men and women, and there must be at least one changing table accessible to both genders per publicly-accessible floor,” the statement continued. “Building owners or managers must post clear signs directing the public to the location of the nearest available changing table.”

The new law appears to be a effort to keep up with changing parental norms. Although childcare has historically been dismissed as solely women’s work, in 2016, fathers reported spending eight hours a week on childcare — that’s triple the time they spent caring for their children back in 1965, according to the Pew Research Center.

“It’s not just moms who change diapers. Dads need to step up and do their part of the dirty work, too,” Sen. Brad Hoylman, who initially introduced the bill, said in the statement. “Governor Cuomo and the legislature are taking an important step in recognizing changing parental norms, including a new generation of gay dads like me who no longer should have to change their babies on the bathroom floor because there’s no changing station in the men’s restroom.”

In recent years, fathers have become more vocal about the need for changing tables in men’s bathrooms. In 2015, Ashton Kutchercomplained about the lack in a Facebook post. Donte Palmer, a stay-at-home dad in Florida, started Squat for Change, a grassroots organization to ensure that all family members have access to a safe, clean changing table.

When introducing the legislation, Hoylman wrote in 2015 that “We no longer live in an age of segregated gender spheres.”

“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,” he wrote.

“Yet, despite this rebalancing of responsibilities, society still places a disproportionate share of parental obligations on women. If we expect fathers to bear more of the burden of child-care, we must ensure that public accommodations reflect this new normal.”

In 2016, former President Barack Obama signed into law the  Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act, which requires publicly accessible federal buildings to have baby changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms.

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