By Saraana Jamraj
For parents and caregivers, finding a place to change a child’s diapers will become easier.
To make public restrooms more family-friendly, the city commission has passed the first reading of an ordinance mandating all new buildings in Tamarac must have baby changing stations in every public restroom including men’s, women’s, gender-neutral, and family restrooms.
Commissioner Marlon Bolton championed the ordinance, after his own experience with fatherhood. He spoke of an experience he had when his son was just a few months old, and he took him to a restaurant where the men’s bathroom did not include a baby-changing station. He was unable to change him there as a result.
“I knew from then that I wanted to take an active role in my child’s life. It shouldn’t have been only my wife’s responsibility to take care of him,” he said.
Commissioner Bolton felt this issue was essential to bring forward, knowing many residents were likely affected by the lack of changing stations.
“I imagined other men had the same issue as I, so I advocated for this change over the past three years,” said Bolton.
He asked residents in 2017 if they supported it, and got a positive response. He said, now, men will have no excuse not to change their children’s diapers in public — at least not in Tamarac.
Through their research, lawmakers found that nine in ten fathers have used a public bathroom which lacked changing tables. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends requiring changing tables in all public restrooms, regardless of gender.
Without the appropriate accommodations, parents are forced to delay changing their baby’s diapers or have to change them on unsanitary surfaces such as the floor, or even pass the responsibility onto someone who can use the women’s restroom.
The ordinance also referenced the BABIES (Bathrooms Accessible for Babies in Every Situation) Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2016, which mandates all federal building restrooms provide changing stations.
The entire commission in Tamarac was unified in their support for this ordinance and the progress it signified in the community. It was passed by the four attending members of the September 25 city commission meeting, with Mayor Michelle Gomez, Vice Mayor Debra Placko, Commissioner Julie Fishman, and Commissioner Bolton voting in favor.
The ordinance is expected to pass on the second reading and in doing so, new buildings will be required to comply when it goes into effect December 1, 2019.
- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.