BETTENDORF, Iowa -- Jacob Smithers is the kind of hands-on dad who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. But society hasn't progressed as quickly as this active father of three, and he has found himself without a changing table when a child needed one.
Like that one time his family visited a Chicago restaurant. His young son was still in diapers then.
"Our son was in a high chair, we had a kid’s menu," he recounted. "Of course our son had an accident. I went to the bathroom and there was no changing table."
He had to ask his wife for help, but she had no luck in the women's bathroom either.
"I said something’s gotta be done."
He found a partner to work on a database, then another friend, who was also a new dad, who created apps.
The website is live, but the app is still in a limited release development phase. The website uses Google Map and the team has put in markers for venues and establishments. If a location has a bathroom, the team, and users, can identify if it has a changing table in the women's, men's, or family bathroom. A category labeled "other" can be used to mark unisex or handicap bathrooms.
"All our markers, they are on the map. So you know where you should and shouldn’t stop," he said, adding that it helps parents plan ahead how they might travel.
Smithers and his partners have been going at it for a few years, their babies and toddlers now out of diapers.
"The challenge for us is, really, is time." he said. "Everyone is a full time parent, full time employee," working on the Changing Table Locator on the side.
"You know, for us to have 15,000 locations in the app all done by ourselves, in our own travels, calling places... [It's] a lot of work." Smithers said.
But as the website gets more attention from the public, people have reached out to help.
He gets emails from dads, and moms, around the country, he said. "I got about 500 emails saying, 'Hey we travelled, we found a place, here’s what they have and don’t have.'"
The app is meant to be used on the go, allowing users to see if a location, say a restaurant, has a bathroom. Smithers and his partners were able to tie their database to Yelp and Google Map.
"If I’m a parent and I want to stop for dinner, I could go to view in Yelp and I get to that location's reviews and menus."
It is helping parents out and about in public with their little ones, he said. "Parents, they don’t want to stop 12 times. They can stop and get the meal and do the diaper at the same time. It’s win win for the traveler."
Famous dads like actor Ashton Kutcher and musician John Legend have put a spotlight on the issue, sharing their fatherly moments and struggles on social media. But Smithers said not enough is being done, and many parents are still changing diapers in the back of the car or on their lap, in a pinch.
"In the middle of winter, that’s not fair for the parents to leave the restaurant or go out in the car and come back in. A parent by themselves with three kids, what do you do? It’s a juggling act."
Smithers said he hopes to launch the app next month, so parents can take the guess work out of going out in public with a kid in diapers.