WA’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner encourages more bathroom access

WA’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner has highlighted the need for businesses and service providers to audit their bathrooms and changerooms to check if they are accessible for all people. Dr John Byrne says recent media coverage highlighted the discrimination transgender people faced.

Writing in the Commission’s regular newsletter Dr Byrne highlighted the controversy around comments made by Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas and the vandalism that occurred at Curtin University’s gender neutral toilets.

“It is a basic human right for people to be able to use a toilet or change room facility without fear of harassment and abuse.” Dr Byrne said.  “However, attitudes and policies need to be reviewed in order to break down the barriers to equality in these areas of public life.”

The Equal Opportunity Commissioner said discussion about transgender people’s access to toilets and changerooms often included baseless concerns.

“There is no evidence to support the notion that trans and gender diverse people use public toilets and change rooms to assault or harass others. In fact, trans and gender diverse people themselves are generally at high risk of being victimised, assaulted and harassed in toilets and change rooms and prefer greater privacy than is often available in many facilities.” Dr Byrne said.

He also highlighted that families are also impacted by a lack of privacy in change room facilities, as are disabled people who need additional assistance from family members or carers.

“Although universal access toilets (UAT) are becoming more common, there does need to be greater consideration for the wider community when constructing or upgrading change room facilities.

“Building standards seem to have stagnated and are not up to speed with privacy in a society where it is increasingly recognised gender identity is not simply a binary matter, that people with disabilities are entitled to full participation in society and may be assisted by a person of the opposite sex.” Dr Byrne said.

The Equal Opportunity Commissioner said the list of those providing toilet and change facilities is extensive and wide-ranging and includes local authorities, gyms, sports centres, swimming pools, cinemas, entertainment centres, schools, TAFEs, universities, shopping centres and many businesses, but he encouraged all providers of toilet and change facilities to audit their facilities and improve privacy, so the facilities are accessible to everyone.

OIP Staff

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