Nova Scotia

Advocates call for diapering stations in more men's washrooms

The men's washroom at the Woodside Ferry Terminal in Dartmouth, N.S., doesn't have a change table, but it's far from the only men's washroom lacking a diapering station. 'In 2019, that's not acceptable,' says one father about the lack of change tables.

'In 2019, that's not acceptable,' says one father about lack of change tables

A typical men's bathroom with no baby change table. (Donald McArthur/CBC News)

When Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt takes his nine-month-old daughter Ashlyn to a washroom in a business or public place, he never quite knows whether he'll find a diaper-changing station inside.

Often, he doesn't.

That means he or his husband, Anthony Jones-Vaillancourt, have to change Ashlyn's diaper in the car, on a bench or whatever clean, flat surface is available.

"I think businesses just need to step up," said Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt. "It's something that is not thought about, or you know, they don't want to put out the expense … which, I mean, might have flown 30 years ago but certainly in 2019, that's not acceptable."

The lack of changing facilities in men's washrooms was raised online earlier this week when activist Rebecca Thomas noted on Twitter that the men's washroom at the Woodside Ferry Terminal in Dartmouth, N.S., didn't have a change table.

She questioned whether Halifax Transit, which operates the terminal, believed changing dirty diapers is "women's work."

A change table located inside a bathroom stall. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

"The broader context is that for a very long time there's implied stuff that women take care of children, women do the dirty diapers, men are working, you know, that sort of thing, right?" said Thomas, who is a consultant for diversity and inclusion. "So, it kind of touches on those long-existing preconceived notions of gender roles."

Both Thomas and Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt acknowledge that in addition to being a feminist issue, the lack of change tables in men's washrooms is an inclusion and diversity issue.

"Not every family has two parents or two opposite-sex parents," Jones-Vaillancourt said.

While some facilities may be able to accommodate a request for a place to change a baby's diaper, Thomas said people shouldn't have to make that request.

"It's about making a space more inclusive, I guess, making it barrier-free. You don't have to ask for an accommodation. You can just kind of exist without having to kind of come up against any barriers."

Halifax Transit responded to Thomas's tweet saying the terminal will be upgraded by 2022, and in the meantime, the service will see if there's space to install a change facility in the men's washroom.

"Our approach any time a facility undergoes extensive renovation is to provide a more comprehensive level of universal accessibility," Halifax Transit said in a statement.

"The new washrooms will be gender-neutral. They will also be individual rooms, as opposed to stalls, with a shared hand-washing area. The washrooms will also include rooms with accessible changing tables."

Halifax Transit said the other two ferry terminals have change stations in the men's washrooms.

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