Room for Everyone

sign reading ‘Room for Everyone’Imagine that you have 10 minutes between classes. Do you have time to find and use a restroom? At Carleton, the answer could have pivoted solely on who you are, which risked the sort of subtle (and not so subtle) types of bias that the Community, Equity, and Diversity Initiative was created to combat. CEDI partnered with the facilities and residential life offices in 2017 to conduct an audit of campus restrooms. The task force learned that there were too few accessible restrooms that were compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially in older buildings (up to code in the past, but out of date since the ADA updated regulations in 2010).

It was also determined that a growing number of trans, genderqueer, and genderfluid people needed more all-gender options. A number of single-user restrooms, which easily could have accommodated anyone, were earmarked for either “men” or “women”—and many multiuser restrooms that had already been converted to all-gender status were poorly marked and rarely listed on campus maps.

The task force began to replace dated signs and identify affordable modifications that could make a number of existing restrooms both ADA-compliant and all-gender. Two single-use, ADA-compliant restrooms were added to Gould Library in 2018, and another was installed in Leighton Hall this summer. The administration agreed to continue incorporating more accessible single-user restrooms into new construction projects, as they did proactively in Weitz Center and the new science complex, Evelyn M. Anderson Hall. These single-user restrooms are the gold standard of accessibility, since anyone can use them and no one has to navigate the potential discomfort of those who are not accustomed to sharing a restroom with someone of a different gender identity.

“There is a push nationwide to stop questioning people’s restroom choices, because they know which restroom is appropriate for them,” says Eileen Lower ’20 (Clarkdale, Ariz.), a member of the CEDI task force. “One way to bypass the issue of who’s using which restroom is to have more all-gender restrooms.”

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