This year, AUT announced the creation of 165 ‘all-gender’ bathrooms to cater for gender diverse students and staff. However, these are not additional bathrooms but re-appropriated disabled bathrooms, with new signage.
Disability and transgender advocate, Allyson Hamblett says while creating all-gender bathrooms on all three campuses is a great move, making disabled bathrooms accessible to able-bodied people is an issue.
“There are fewer bathrooms available for disabled people to use – the waiting time increases.”
She notes that accessible bathrooms have always been gender neutral for disabled people.
“Disabled people worked out the gender neutral issue many years ago and it’s time for the able-bodied communities to catch up.
“I think the wider problem is what to do to convert old male and female bathrooms and make them gender neutral.”
The news of AUT’s ‘all-gender’ bathrooms gathered much media attention, with the former AUT Rainbow Community Manager, Audrey Hutcheson stating that “It’s about human rights, safety, and equitable access to basic needs.”.
express spoke to another disabilities advocate who says they have heard that a number of students have experienced significant problems after disabled bathrooms became gender-neutral ones.
“As adults, it is embarrassing and degrading having an ‘accident’ because the toilet was in use. It can add insult to the whole circumstance if an able-bodied person walks out of the bathroom.
“It’s a very sensitive topic.”
They say everyone needs to feel safe and have access to a toilet or bathroom that they can functionally use.
“Simply, no one wants to front up any money to have that many bathroom options, so the answer is share and learn to ‘cross ya legs’.
It is unclear whether AUT consulted with the disabled community or disabilities advocates before adapting the bathrooms.
An AUT spokesperson says the University is focused on providing safe facilities for all of its students.
“With this in mind, the university allocated a number of toilets to be more inclusive by adding ‘all gender.’
“The rationale being that anyone can use them; people with guide dogs, people with children, people assisting an older person, people with mobility needs, people who don’t feel safe in gendered toilets.
No complaints from the disabled community have been laid with the university regarding the bathrooms.