Vancouver city council today heard a staff proposal to encourage provision of gender-neutral washrooms in public buildings to address the privacy and safety concerns of transgender people using such facilities.
In his presentation Sept 24, chief building official Will Johnson says if council votes to approve the measure, it will be the first code in Canada to recognize gender-neutral washrooms in public facilities.
“It doesn’t require gender-neutral washrooms to be put into buildings, but what it says is you can do it,” Johnson adds.
According to a City of Vancouver release, the existing building bylaw doesn’t prohibit the construction of gender-neutral washrooms, but it doesn’t explicitly state they are permitted.
If gender-neutral washrooms are installed, there are features that are needed to ensure that privacy and security concerns are addressed, Johnson noted in his report.
The chief building official worked with both the LGBTQ and Women’s Advisory Committees to develop requirements that address washroom access, partition design and locking devices.
“One of the things we’ve heard a lot about is that when you have a gender-neutral washroom, there may be concerns if something went wrong in that washroom, when someone was crying for help,” Johnson offers as an example.
He says there are provisions included to address that scenario.
“It’s either you provide no door into the washroom, or you provide a grill above the door that actually will allow any cries for help to be heard outside the washroom.
Johnson says the code also includes specific requirements for washroom locking devices so it’s clear whether it is occupied or not.
Council is expected to hear speakers on the proposal Sept 25.