Disabled toilets we fought hard for are now gender neutral
As facilities are rebranded in public buildings, disabled people are ‘losing out’
DISABILITY campaigners are arguing that disabled toilets must be protected for them rather than transgender people, as disabled facilities nationwide are being redesignated ‘gender neutral’.
John Dolan, chief executive of the Disability Federation of Ireland, told the Irish Mail on Sunday that disabled people had fought hard for years for their own toilets and designated spaces on buses, but both are now being used for other purposes.
Mr Dolan said he had no objection in principle to disabled toilets being used by transgender people, who make up less than 1% of the population, but argued they must foremost be protected for disabled users. Instead, gender-neutral toilets are now being relabelled for males, females, disabled users, transgender people and as baby-changing facilities.
‘These toilets are a confidential, private space which were designed for disabled people,’ he told the MoS. ‘Now people who have gender identity issues want to be able to use those spaces. What people who are mobilityimpaired are really sensitive about is that the space they fought for becomes unavailable to them because of other usage. They are right to be sensitive about that.’ A number of disabled people have also expressed concerns, and believe that they should have separate facilities to transgender users, but declined to speak publicly. Half of the six genderneutral toilets in the office of the Taoiseach were for wheelchair users. There are 30 transgender toilets on campus in NUI Galway, of which 14 were formerly designated disabled toilets. A spokesman for NUI Galway told the MoS that there are 90 bathrooms on campus for students with a physical disability.
At the University of Limerick, of the 15 gender-neutral toilets, five were designated for disabled users and remain open to them. UL has 40 other toilets for disabled users. A spokesman for Dublin Institute of Technology said a decision had been made to designate 46 existing singleoccupancy facilities as both gender neutral and disability accessible. The third-level college is undergoing an extensive building programme and the spokesman said that as students and staff move to new buildings, ‘there will be an increased focus on delivering more gender-neutral facilities’. Trinity College Dublin is introducing more than 90 genderneutral toilets, with plans to introduce more pending a feasibility audit. Figures were not available on the number of toilets for disabled users being relabelled for this purpose.
A spokesman for the Department of Education told the MoS that it responds to requests made by schools for transgender toilets based on established need. Officials do not keep records of the breakdown of toilet facilities.
This weekend, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland had not responded to a request from the MoS in relation to the concerns of disability campaigners.
Signage in Trinity College Dublin indicates that the WC is ‘all gender’ Issue:
Trinity College Dublin’s Arts Block. Many third-level colleges are redesignating toilet facilities
advocate: Disability Federation CEO John Dolan