Problem Solver - August 2015
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Understand Changing Rules for Public Restrooms

Over the past couple of decades, many facilities have begun adding family restrooms in addition to the traditional men's and women's spaces. Family restrooms are a boon for those who need assistance from opposite-sex friends and partners, as well as parents looking to use the facilities with their opposite-gender children. New developments continue to arise, with laws addressing who can go where. Staying on top of changing rules for public restrooms is important to ensure that you're providing the most comfortable experience for patrons, while adhering to any legal requirements and avoiding potential lawsuits for discrimination or invasion of privacy.

Q: What are some of the laws and legal issues that are having an impact on public restroom use?

A: Access for public restrooms is changing and becoming a legal issue when laws require individuals to use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in government-owned buildings. Controversy continues with the subject of transgender use of public restrooms. In many locations, transgender individuals are encouraged to use the restroom of the gender they identify as. In others, legislators and others are trying to pass laws requiring individuals to use the restroom associated with their biological gender. It will be important to stay on top of legal developments and make adjustments as they occur.

Q: How should public restrooms be designed to ensure access for individuals of all abilities and genders?

A: Laws restricting or changing who is allowed in which restrooms could affect the design and construction of public restrooms in public buildings, including our parks. The traditional restroom, with separate multiple-user restrooms designated for males or females may be inadequate as the rights of transgender individuals move to the forefront.

Gender designations for restrooms can also have an impact on non-transgender individuals. The issue is individual privacy in sex-separated restrooms.

The answer is to design future restrooms like the current practice for airports and other venues, where the concept of a family restroom serves to meet the needs of accessibility-challenged users who need assistance when visiting the facility and bringing a member of the opposite sex; parents who use restrooms with their children of the opposite sex; and transgender individuals.

Ideally, future park restrooms should include facilities for separate sex (male and female) multi-user facilities, as well as incorporating the "Family or All Gender" single-user restroom. This type of arrangement should meet most planned future restroom regulations.

Q: What else should we consider?

A: Signage is an important part of letting people know which restrooms are appropriate for their use. To date, most family restrooms have been marked with a "Family" designation. Proponents are now suggesting that the sign for a single-user restroom, such as those in airports, should read "All Gender." While this type of signage is not yet available for the most part, the debate on appropriate signage continues. In the meantime, placing restrooms at your facilities that provide both single-gender/multi-user restrooms as well as all-gender/single-user restrooms should help meet the needs of all patrons.


Public Restroom Company

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