OPINION: Limits of gender-neutral washrooms at Humber

Mar 28, 2024 | OP-ED, Opinion

Accessibility is a priority at Humber, but accessing gender-neutral washrooms is trickier than ever due to a lack of understandable signs and terminology.

As someone who prefers to use a gender-neutral washroom, using one can easily become a stressful experience.

This is largely due to how difficult it is to spot a sign that indicates a washroom is gender-neutral.

It wasn’t until I had a month left of school that I learned there was more than one gender-neutral washroom at the North campus.

An announcement from Humber Communique shows three signs used at gender-neutral washrooms across the North and Lakeshore campuses.

An image from a Humber Communique newsletter shows three different types of signs used for gender-neutral washrooms at North and Lakeshore campuses.

Three types of signs are used for gender-neutral washrooms at Humber's North and Lakeshore campuses. Photo credit: Humber HR Services

While these signs indicate that men, women, children and students with physical accessibility needs may use the washrooms, there is no clear indication that they are gender-neutral.

These signs reinforce the gender binary rather than showcase a way to create a safe space for students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

They also distinguish people with physical disabilities from people who identify as men or women.

There are 11 gender-neutral washrooms on campus, yet only one confirms that the washroom is gender-neutral by using words along with symbols.

A photo of an accessible washroom at Humber's North campus.

An accessible washroom can include a mix of signs, words, and braille to meet different accessibility needs. Photo credit: Liv Chug

The washroom also uses braille to allow students with visual impairments to use it.

This is the mark of a truly accessible washroom because it clearly states who is welcome to use it in ways that students with different accessibility needs can understand.

While signs on campus are lacking, searching for gender-neutral washrooms on Humber’s Campus Connect app is also difficult.

Keywords like accessible, all-gender or gender-neutral will not yield a result when entered into the app’s map search bar.

The only keyword that shows gender-neutral washrooms is unisex.

The difference is that unisex washrooms are single stalls, and only one student can use them at a time.

All washrooms labelled unisex are wheelchair accessible except one.

The college tries to be an inclusive space where students’ needs are met, but sometimes including all forms of accessibility in one space hinders students more than it helps them.

When students with physical disabilities need to use an occupied single-stall washroom, they are barred from the only place that meets their accessibility needs.

When I need to use a gender-neutral washroom, I try to wait until the last minute so I don’t take an opportunity away from someone else.

I shouldn’t feel the need to do this.

The only gender-neutral washroom that is not a single-stall “unisex” toilet is on the University of Guelph-Humber campus, far away from my classes and friends.

A screenshot from Humber's Campus Connect app shows a unisex restroom on the University of Guelph-Humber campus.

Unisex washrooms with more than one stall are only available on UofGH campus. Photo credit: Liv Chug

Verbiage and signage are hard to navigate both for students and those installing gender-neutral washrooms.

This is why it is important to include LGBTQ+ community members and students in the steps involved in the installation of gender-neutral washrooms.