Equity & Inclusion Office working to make washrooms on campus more inclusive, accessible

The Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO) is currently working on a project to make washrooms more inclusive at UBC, in line with the university’s broad commitment to inclusion.

The project started in 2019 when the Provost’s office asked representatives from UBC Infrastructure Development and the EIO to meet with external consultants to conduct a campus-wide consultation on making washrooms safe and comfortable for everyone on campus. It is also part of the “Inclusive Infrastructure” goal in the university’s Inclusion Action Plan.

“Inclusive washrooms help to make the campus safe, accessible, and welcoming for those who don’t feel safe or welcome in washrooms designated for men or women. This includes many trans, gender fluid, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people,” said Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, in a statement sent to The Ubyssey.

“Washrooms that are shared by people of all genders (known as all-gender washrooms) can decrease people’s anxiety and fear while using the toilet, because there is less of a chance of negative and traumatizing interactions, including physical assault, verbal abuse or other disrespectful behaviours.”

In a separate written statement, Rachael Sullivan, equity education strategist at the EIO, said she was happy to see a wide variety of washrooms available on campus to meet a variety of needs.

Sullivan mentioned that a great example of the inclusive washroom project in action is the UBC Life Building where there is a large, all-gender, multi-stall washroom on the main floor and universal changing rooms in the basement.

“While gender is often the focus of discussion of washroom design, the project team wanted to ensure that inclusive washrooms also support those who have invisible disabilities, those who need access and the space in preparation for prayer practices and/or experienced violence in these spaces,” wrote Ramsey.

The inclusive washroom project involves design considerations, partnerships across the university and various technical guidelines for cleaning, noise abatement and other issues. All of this information will be used to identify key practices for the design of new washrooms, as well as the renovation of existing washrooms throughout campus.

The overall goal of the project is to provide choice among options, meaning that the inclusive washrooms on campus will also benefit individuals who prefer to use gender-specific spaces.

“Inclusion is part of UBC’s strategic commitments and as part of those commitments we are working hard to be inclusive of and accessible for all in our community. The work around inclusive washroom facilities is one element of that work. We take the commitment to advancing inclusivity seriously and look forward to providing additional details when they are available,” wrote Ramsey.

A previous version of this article misstated that the Inclusion Action Plan belonged to the Equity & Inclusion Office. This article was updated on May 11, 2022 at 6:08 p.m. to reflect this change.