City leader hoping to make dad diaper duty easier with proposed ordinance

Big changes could be on the way for men’s bathrooms in Austin. City leaders are working to provide dads, uncles and grandpas with diaper changing stations in public restrooms. 

“If they’re taking the kids out by themselves than they obviously need a place to change their babies,” Austin resident Elizabeth Oberg said.

Research shows that 9 out of 10 dads have gone to a public restroom to change their baby and found no changing table. 

Steven Scales has helped raise four kids and says the quest to find proper changing stations hasn’t been an easy one. 

"Dads have diaper duty for sure I was on diaper duty myself for a while. We have to change our child’s diaper on our laps or the sink or the toilette or the floor,” said Scales. 

Changing table inequality was placed front in center last year, when a picture went viral on social media of a Florida dad changing his son’s diaper while squatting in the men’s restroom.

Since then, dads have been trying to change the game. 

As part of their “Love the Change” campaign, Pampers announced they would be rolling out around 5,000 changing stations across the U.S. and Canada.

Austin City Council member Paige Ellis says she’s familiar with the situation and says she’s on board. 

“What was really surprising to me is that I have so many dads reaching out and saying this is a problem and we are finding ways to come up with a solution and trying to change our children in these public restrooms and the sanitary changing stations just aren’t there," Ellis said.

Locally, she’s leading an effort to arm dads with the proper changing tables and resources they need to be hands-on with their children. 

“We have families in our community where’s there’s two dads,” said Ellis. 

Ellis is working to pass an ordinance that would require certain buildings such as restaurants and retail stores in Austin to provide changing tables that men can access. 

“The city of Dallas was talking about this issue so we’re not alone in trying to make sure that everyone has access to these changing stations,” said Ellis. "I’ve also seen people changing their babies in the back of an SUV because there are no other options."

The resolution points out the health and safety concerns connected to not having proper changing stations. 

Ellis says the ordinance wouldn’t apply to any existing businesses unless it undergoes a major renovation.

The resolution asks that the city manager develop a timeline and funding plan. 

“There will be some outreach city manager will do to stake holders so we can get a really good picture of who has already stepped up in this way and who may be required to moving forward,” said Ellis. 

Scales says making more changing tables accessible to men would make Austin an even more family-friendly place to live. 

“Instead of having to you know change on the sink, that’s so uncomfortable for a child," Scales said.

Recently Dallas city leaders have passed an ordinance requiring baby changing tables in both new and remodeled restrooms inside restaurants and retail stores.