Dis­abled toi­lets we fought hard for are now gen­der neu­tral

As fa­cil­i­ties are re­branded in public build­ings, dis­abled peo­ple are ‘los­ing out’

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - ATTACK ON SYRIA - By Anne Sheri­dan anne.sheri­dan@mailon­sun­day.ie

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.

prI­vate:

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

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