Queen’s promotes safety, inclusivity with new washroom signage

Photo via Queen’s University.

Queen’s University has changed the signage on campus washrooms in an effort to make them more inclusive, safe, and welcoming spaces, the university has announced.

Single-user washrooms across campus are now gender-neutral, with signs that focus on the function of the space rather than the gender of the user, according to a statement published by Queen’s on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. In addition to the approximately 250 single-user washrooms across Queen’s Kingston campuses, three additional universal single-user gender-neutral washrooms are being constructed in Robert Sutherland Hall, Mackintosh-Corry Hall, and Coastal Engineering Laboratories on West Campus.

“These changes are a significant milestone in becoming a truly inclusive and safe campus with a built environment that provides equal access for all users,” said Vice-Principal of Culture, Equity, and Inclusion, Stephanie Simpson, said in a statement. 

Following a comprehensive review of scholarly literature, trade literature, and best practices to identify how gender-inclusive washrooms and change rooms should be instituted at Queen’s, the Principal’s Action Group on Gender and Sexual Diversity (PAGGAS) recommended the gender-neutral signage, which was developed in collaboration with the university’s Built Environment Advisory Group, according to Queen’s.

Kingstonist reached out to Trans Family Kingston for comment on what these changes mean for transgender students and the local trans/trans-supportive community. Trans Family Kingston redirected those inquiries to Lee Airton, Co-Chair of PAGGAS and Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education at Queen’s Faculty of Education. Airton did not respond to requests for comment.

However, in a notice published by the Queen’s Gazette, Airton stated that, “Removing gendered signage from single-user washrooms seems like such a simple thing but is a vitally important step to take in order to make Queen’s spaces safer and more accessible.”

“It can be frustrating to encounter washrooms that are clearly for a single user but are signed in such a way that makes them inaccessible for many transgender and nonbinary people,” Airton explained. “Being seen to enter a gendered washroom — even a single-user one — can make a trans person vulnerable to harassment.”

According to Airton, PAGGAS works closely with the Queen’s Facilities department, collaborating on the development of the gender-neutral signage in accordance with Queen’s Gender Neutral Washrooms Policy. According to that policy, “members of the Queen’s community should be able to access facilities such as washrooms and change rooms in safety and without affronts to their dignity. This is a matter of both safety and dignity for many on campus.”

The new signage focuses on the function of the space rather than the gender of the person using it. Photo via Queen’s.

The new signage also follows Queen’s facility accessibility design standards. It includes universally recognizable icons with text below, along with braille. Various icons identify the use of the space, whether a washroom, ambulant washroom (with accessible drop bar), shower, accessible shower, urinal, or baby or adult change table.

According to the university, any current gendered, multi-stall washrooms will be converted to single-user gender-neutral washrooms “over time where funding and space permits.” Each stall/washroom will have its own toilet, sink, and mirror, giving more privacy to individuals and allowing anyone to use each one. These washroom banks are currently being designed for projects at Kingston Hall and Mackintosh-Corry Hall, the university said.

 “Queen’s is committed to this process, and moving forward, all new buildings constructed on campus must include single-user gender-neutral washrooms alongside multi-stall gendered washrooms,” said Simpson, who is also a member of PAGGAS.

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