(CNN) – Finally, men and women might be able to share diaper duty more easily.
This month, President Barack Obama signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, or the BABIES Act, which requires diaper-changing facilities in male and female restrooms in public federal buildings, such as Social Security offices, courthouses and post offices. If these restrooms do not have changing tables, hallway signs must direct parents to the nearest facilities, the act states.
The law doesn’t cover restrooms that aren’t in public buildings, such as restaurants or retailers, and those in buildings that can’t safely support changing facilities.
Mounting more changing tables in restrooms seems like a small task, but the policy suggests a step forward in gender equality, enabling all parents to take part in child care.
Without access to changing tables, parents often use other surfaces to change diapers — including restroom floors or counters. These unsanitary conditions can pose health risks, according to Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who proposed the bill in April.
“Not only does (the lack of baby-changing facilities) put the health and safety of the baby at risk, it also puts the health of other restroom patrons at risk,” Cicilline wrote in a statement on his website.
In September, the House passed the BABIES Act by a vote of 389 to 34, according to congressional records.
According to the website, within two years of enacting the BABIES bill, all federal public buildings will be required to have at least one changing station accessible to both men and women. The stations must be deemed safe, sanitary and appropriate by the General Services Administration.