A changing table in every restroom: A dad’s take on Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act

Before becoming a parent, you often receive lots of advice on the best products, nanny services, and even schools. It is not until you find yourself in a bind that you realize that the most-needed advice sometimes comes too late, such as where you can change your infant’s soiled diaper when you’re not at home.

If you’re at a restaurant, dads are usually unable to visit a restroom with a changing table station and assist with the soiled diaper. That’s because the law permits public establishments to ignore the fact that men are also dads who care for their children.

But a recent law signed by President Obama addresses just that issue. His new law — the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act — mandates that all restrooms (yes, for both men and women) in public buildings include baby-changing stations. This will allow men to take on their fatherly responsibilities with less difficulty. Although it seems small, this is a big step in recognizing the importance of parental equality.

Fathers are much more involved in actively parenting their children than they were decades ago, and with the changing face of families, traditional roles are not the status quo. Fathers take pride in the great responsibility of parenting. Surprisingly, many business owners have not realized that something as simple as not having a changing table in a men’s restroom can cause hardship to a dad caring for his young child, and cast assumptions that only women actively parent.

Prior to the passing of President Obama’s legislation, husband, father, and dad blogger Doyin Richards had worked with California state Sen. Ricardo Lara to rally another revolutionary bill, the Potty Parity for Parents Act. The bill was the first statewide measure of its kind, pushing the requirement for baby-changing stations in men’s restrooms or designated family restrooms. That bill was later rejected. However, advocates like Richards continue to speak up for dads and parents in general. I wanted to hear his reactions on President Obama’s new law and get his take on dads and parent equality. Here’s what he had to say.

Shnieka Johnson: You have a popular blog about your parenting experiences. What drove you to bring fatherhood to the spotlight?

Doyin Richards: When my oldest daughter was born in 2011, I realized that being a dad was the most important job I’ll ever have in my lifetime. At first, my Daddy Doin’ Work blog started off with me sharing my personal stories about what being a dad meant to me, but eventually I shifted my focus to inspiring other men to embrace fatherhood as well. Once I did that, the blog’s popularity began to take off.

SJ: Your picture book was released in the spring, when did your book concept come about?

DR: “I Wonder” is a photo book completely comprised of photos sent into me by my Instagram followers. The concept is around fatherhood, of course — but the main point is to highlight the many insecurities dads have as we wonder if our kids understand why we do things the way we do. However, the one thing we (dads) never wonder about is how much we love our children. This is a book that will make any parent laugh, cry, and think — and it serves as a great way to bond with our children.

SJ: Recently, the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act was passed. What was your initial reaction to its passing?

DR: I love it. We tried to pass similar legislation in California a few years ago, but ultimately, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it due to his belief that it was a “private sector issue.” I completely disagree. Not too long ago, it was legal for people to smoke cigarettes on airplanes. If the government didn’t get involved, people would still be smoking on flights. If it’s now 2016 and the private sector hasn’t realized that dads need a safe place to change their kids’ diapers, they never will. Sometimes you have to legislate common sense, and this is one of those times. Kudos to President Obama for realizing that.

SJ: When you think about fatherhood and your parenting style, who have been your inspirations?

DR: Without question, it’s my dad and my two older brothers. I am so blessed to have been raised by the greatest man I know and be close friends and brothers with the two best modern dads I know. Honestly, fatherhood is the hardest job in the world, but it would be much more difficult if I didn’t have these great men to look up to.

SJ: What resources did you review as a new father that you would recommend to others?

DR: Honestly, I didn’t read any books about fatherhood when I was a new dad. I leaned on the dads I trusted and respected the most to show me the ropes. After a while, I learned to trust my gut when it came to my daughters. Sometimes I made mistakes, but oftentimes, failure is the best teacher. And in parenting, that is absolutely the truth.

SJ: As for the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, do you think it will have an impact on how fathers are viewed? Do you think it will spread to private establishments soon?

DR: For sure. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history. Dads matter, and we aren’t going to tolerate businesses that refuse to take us seriously. The ask here is very simple — if a changing station exists in a women’s restroom, we ask that one exist in an adjacent men’s restroom. Any business owner who can’t agree to that shouldn’t be in business in the first place.

Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.