Feature Article - May 2008
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All in the Family

Ensuring Locker Rooms & Restrooms Are Fit for Everyone

By Stacy St. Clair

For years, Stacey Eisler heard the commotion outside her office at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Her work space was located near the men,s locker room, and she could hear mothers expressing their exasperation all day, every day.

The women stood outside the door yelling their sons' names over and over again. "Tyler? Tyler? Are you in there?" Their voices would sing that frustrated chorus for 15 minutes without respite. When that didn't work, the women resorted to tapping male patrons on the shoulder and asking them to check on their sons' well-being.

"I then realized the frustration in the minds of parents with children of different genders," said Eisler, the groundbreaking Y's deputy director. "It wasn't just mothers with their sons or fathers with daughters, but also parents who had both sons and daughters."

To remedy the situation, Eisler insisted the facility's 1999 renovation plans include a family locker room, which would reduce the logistical problems that arise when parents and their kids recreate together. Such facilities have become a godsend to both patrons with small children or older relatives in need of assistance.

Like most family locker rooms, the 92nd Street Y's facilities consist of a large open space equipped with private changing rooms. There are signs proclaiming it a co-ed area, as well as dedicated space outside the door for stroller parking.

"When you're bringing young children for an activity, it can be very stressful," Eisler said. "We want to make it as easy as possible. Everyone seems to really understand the concept. It's a great amenity that's also very convenient."

By creating the family locker room, as well as a changing area specifically for use by teenage girls, female patrons benefited greatly from the renovation. While facility managers always expected this group to reap the reward from additional locker-room options, they were pleasantly surprised to see men take advantage of the new design, too. Suddenly, more fathers participated in activities with their daughters because they could share a changing area with the young girls instead of sending them into the women's locker room unsupervised with the hope they'd be OK.

"The family locker room really solves a lot of problems for dad," Eisler said. "It has really helped dads take their daughters to swim lessons."