Universal Washroom FAQ

BACKGROUND:  

Stony Plain Public Library opened its new building in March 2021 which includes a Family Friendly washroom. Below are FAQs staff can use in response to patrons who have questions about the washroom. 

 

FAQS:  

Why does the library have “family friendly” washroom? 

Family Friendly washrooms, which are also known as “All gender washrooms,” or “Universal washrooms” are inclusive and efficient for all members of our community. 

 

Gender-designated washrooms are not accessible for many customers who may have health issues, difficulties with mobility, require assistance from someone of another gender, or who are gender diverse, non-binary, or transgender. They also present problems for parents who come to the library with children who would not use the same gender-designated washrooms. Family-friendly washrooms make library trips easier for moms with sons or grandfathers with granddaughters, for example.  

Are they safe? 

Yes. The open concept of the sink area facilitates more staff visibility and supervision. Each stall provides more privacy than a typical gender-designated washroom, because the stall doors go down all the way to the floor. If a patron feels uncomfortable in any way, they are welcome to use our Accessible washroom in the same area of the library. If patrons have further concerns encouraged to speak to a staff member. 

What if I require a different option? Are there gender specific washrooms as well? 

We do not have gender specific washrooms but if a patron prefers more privacy, they are welcome to use the Accessible washroom, which includes a toilet, change table, and sink. All of our washrooms are for all of our patrons. 

Some people may be worried that if they use the Accessible washroom, someone who needs that washroom may not be able to use it. In our previous location we only had two single-use washrooms and they were rarely both in use. Occasionally waiting to use a washroom in public is something that happens to everyone. 

There are many reasons why someone may need or prefer to use a private toilet. We are not judging who is allowed to use which washroom and we want everyone to have a positive experience in our library. Please use the washroom you feel most comfortable with.    

Will they be clean? 

The Library is professionally cleaned on a daily basis and staff will clean more often when it is required. Please let us know if there is an issue with the cleanliness of our facilities.  

How will patrons know it is not a single-gendered washroom?  

The signage on our washrooms focuses on the use the function of the rooms. The Family Friendly Washroom simply says “Toilets” with no indication of gender. The Accessible Washroom signage includes images of a toilet, a person in a wheelchair to indicate it is wheelchair accessible, and an image of a baby to indicate there is a change table.  

How should I behave in this space? 

This washroom is a public space so patrons are expected to conduct themselves as they would in any other public washroom setting.  

Is this just a fad?

No, universal washrooms are now being increasingly incorporated in recreation centres, schools, museums and other public facilities across Canada, North America and Europe. Provincial human rights legislation, and the updated Canadian Human Rights Act, allow for “the right of all people to use a washroom or change room that corresponds to their gender identity and support discussions around access and how spaces can be made more inclusive.” 

In a recent article in Library Journal, author Meredith Schwartz points out that “[a]ccess for all has long been a core library value… providing welcoming facilities can make the difference to whether patrons feel they belong at the library”[1].  

Libraries have a responsibility to contribute to a culture that recognizes diversity and fosters social inclusion” and the American Library Association notes that “[l]ibrary spaces, programs, and collections should accommodate the needs of every user”. 

Benefits of Family Friendly Washrooms 

 

WHY SPPL INCLUDED A FAMILY FRIENDLY WASHROOMS:[1] 

INCLUSIVITY FOR FAMILIES 

Parents or caregivers can use the same washroom as their child (i.e., a grandfather with his granddaughter, or a mother with her non-binary child). 

 

INCLUSIVITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES 

Universal spaces accommodate people who have a caregiver of a different gender. 

 

INCLUSIVITY FOR SEXUAL AND GENDER MINORITIES 

Universal washrooms provide a safer and more welcoming space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and non-binary people, and can reduce feeling unsafe and instances of harassment and abuse. 

 

INCREASED PRIVACY 

Universal design strategies strive to increase privacy for all users. Increased privacy also benefits those with individual health needs. 

 

INCREASED EFFICIENCY 

They can handle higher overall usage loads than washrooms separated into women's and men's, and reduce the wait times and lines often experienced by those using women's washrooms during events or other high-use times. They also facilitate cleaning by staff of any gender. 

 

FORWARD-THINKING DESIGN 

Demand for universal facilities is growing, and these spaces offer greater flexibility. Designs that prioritize gender-designated spaces may require renovation as community needs continue to evolve. 

[1] This document is based on HCMA Architecture + Design. Designing for Inclusivity: Strategies for Universal Washrooms and Change Rooms Verson 1.0. January 2018, p. 9.