Seems one can’t click on a news link without reading something about gender neutrality. The latest being the recent legislative maneuvering in North Carolina.
Bathroom Design Beyond ADA
The concept of accommodation in bathroom design has moved beyond the realm of ADA-sanctioned design requirements for those with disabilities. The new cutting edge of accessibility now addresses accommodating individuals based on their gender identity.
The “easy” route for gender accommodation is the installation of single occupancy restrooms with clear signage indicating the space as a gender-neutral restroom. This provides not only the needed privacy but also increased safety from harassment and assault.
The more challenging aspects in addressing gender neutrality arise in those facilities that must provide adequate numbers of fixtures and stalls. “Potty parity” — gender equality in the number of bathroom fixtures — comes into play in order to accommodate the simple biological need. But, one major obstacle lies in the lack of clear legal and regulatory guidance as to erasing the line between men and women in public restrooms.
Guidance and History
What becomes clear is that there is no single source of guidance, and that there exists a patchwork of state and municipal initiatives, statutes and ordinances. It may surprise you to know, for instance, that many states have laws on their books requiring public restrooms to be gender segregated.
In the U.S., it wasn’t until 1887 that separate restrooms became a legal requirement, when Massachusetts became the first state to require women’s restrooms in the workplace. By the 1920 most states had passed similar laws requiring restrooms for women. Thus, gender segregation of restrooms become codified … the law of the land, so to speak.
Our latest white paper, Restrooms for All – The Challenges of Gender-Neutral Design seeks to layout the current state of gender-neutral restroom design, and point to possible impacts on space planning as “potty parity” moves into this new realm.