COLUMBUS (WCMH) — As a new father, Ethan Hansen had never thought of baby changing stations in men’s bathrooms until he found himself in a crappy situation.
He was out alone with his then four-month-old daughter Charlotte at a Columbus restaurant last year.
“She had a dirty diaper and I took her to the bathroom,” Hansen said upon entering the men’s room where he found a problem. “There was no changing table in the bathroom.”
Hansen ended up using a changing pad and doing what he could.
“I ended up having to change her on the floor next to the urinal,” Hansen said.
Not wanting to repeat the experience, he contacted his city councilor, Michael Stinziano, who is also a new father.
“As a new father you never know what you are going to encounter when you are out and about,” Stinziano said.
According to Councilman Stinziano laws vary across the state and country
“Some cities require it for new buildings, some for all,” he added.
Nationally, all federal buildings must have changing tables for men’s and women’s bathrooms per the BABIES act passed under then President Obama in 2016. But locally in Columbus there are no guidelines.
Stinziano is trying to change that. He has introduced an up to $25,000 grant for Ohio businesses to put baby changing stations in men’s or unisex bathrooms,
“Where we can work in tandem with the private public partnership is where we can see value in the city of Columbus,” Stinziano said.
The Columbus Parks and Recreation Department will also use operating funds to install baby changing stations across 43 rec centers. That will carry a price tag of $50,000. The department is installing them as they can afford through the next few years.
Stinziano hopes the first come, first serve program for private businesses will start a larger trend.
“No matter what parent a child is with, they are going to be comfortable and feel that they are going to be able to take advantage of our wonderful city, “Stinziano said.
“I think it’s a great start,” Hansen said.
Hansen hopes by the time Charlotte is old enough to have children, history will not repeat itself.
“I would love for it to be a permanent fixture in the city, and a requirement,” Hansen said.
Ohio based business can start applying for the grant over the next month though Councilman Stinziano’s office in Columbus. Stinziano adds that city Council also exploring zoning law requirements to try and fit the needs of citizens.