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Dads And Diapers — Legislation Would Require Baby Changing Stations In Men's Rooms

men's room sigh indicating a baby changing station is inside
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers are trying to make it easier for parents to share diaper changing duty.

They sent the governor legislation that would require baby changing stations in men’s and women’s restrooms.

The legislation was sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Delia Ramirez, from Chicago.

“If you talk to new parents, they will tell you over and over just the challenges they have — both mothers and fathers — in doing the basic things like changing their children when they’re out in a restaurant or in a public facility,” Ramirez said when the measure was debated earlier this year.

It’s not uncommon for stores and restaurants to only have a diaper changing station in the women’s restroom — which means diaper duty can fall disproportionately on moms.

Sen. Ram Villivalam, also a Democrat from Chicago, says like everything else in the existing Equitable Restrooms Act, the rule would only apply to new construction or if there’s remodeling affecting more than half of a business.

“Parent — young parents — they don’t know when they’re going to need to tend to their children, tend to their toddlers or babies,” Villivalam told his colleagues.

The changing stations would have to be in any public building with a restroom open to the public. That includes stores greater than 5,000 square feet and restaurants that can seat at least 60.

Changing stations are not required if they would interfere with access for people with disabilities. They’re also not required if there’s a changing station in a common area of a building nearby — like a shopping mall food court. Finally, there are exceptions for industrial buildings, bars, and nightclubs that don’t admit people under age 18.

The legislation is House Bill 3711.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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