Beyond ADA: Gender Neutral Restrooms
Beyond the Federal ADA signage guidelines, there are new regulations that you may be unfamiliar with. To shed light on these regulations, we have launched Beyond ADA, a new series designed to empower fabricators, architects, and designers with the knowledge to ensure ADA compliance and optimize their design workflows.
Beyond what is noted in the ADAAG regarding restroom signs, pictograms, etc., many states have new regulations for single-occupant restrooms, or gender-neutral restrooms. Driven by the desire for equal access, many states have started to mandate gender-neutrality for all public single-user restrooms.
What are Gender-Neutral Restrooms?
Gender-neutral restrooms refer to single-occupancy bathrooms that are open to everyone regardless of their gender identification. These restrooms are conventionally fitted with one lavatory and one sink and possess a lockable door. As with all bathrooms, these public single-user restrooms must be appropriately mounted with correct ADA-compliant wayfinding signage.
Why are All-Gender Restrooms Important?
Gender-free restrooms are a way to provide equal access and inclusivity within ALL public spaces, businesses, and facilities. Not only do they accommodate the LBGTQ and non-gender conforming community, but also parents and caregivers who are of the opposite sex and need to provide care. Simply put, gender-neutral restrooms are open and accessible for anyone to use, making them essential in today’s current landscape.
In recent years, local jurisdictions across the country have started to rally in support of gender-neutral restrooms. Legislative bodies in major states and cities, like California, Vermont, Illinois, Washington D.C., and New York, have passed laws supporting an individual’s right to a public restroom that suits their gender identity. This year, even the International Code Council (ICC) will update its building (IBC) and plumbing (IPC) code with new standards relating to public single-user bathrooms. Governing the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico, this edition requires all public single-user toilets to have signage that indicates accessibility to all, regardless of sex.
Regulations for ADA-Compliant Gender Neutral Restrooms
Gender-neutral signs require neutral wording. Terms like “restroom” or “bathroom” are approved. Other words like “All Gender”, “Unisex”, and “Gender Neutral” should be used with caution as they are allowed by some jurisdictions but not all. For example, the 3rd amendment of Illinois’s HB3589 states exterior signage shouldn’t indicate any specific gender even if it is phrased as “All Gender” or “Gender Neutral.”
In most states and cities, pictograms for public gender neutral bathroom signs are neither required nor specified. Nonetheless, there are several that do warn against potential images that may be non-permissible. In the city of San Francisco, for example, those composed of half female and half male may not be approved because they can be perceived as inappropriate and misleading by those who do not identify with a gender.
International Symbol of Access
Although pictograms are not generally required, the International Symbol of Access is a must-have if it is an accessible restroom. To fit this universal accessibility symbol, a minimum 6” inch length is recommended for the image segment of signs.
Nova Polymers Can Help
The number of public unisex bathrooms is only going to increase over time, along with the demand for ADA compliant gender-neutral restroom signs. To make sure you are fabricating the proper ADA signage for these restrooms, it is a good idea to research your local regulations and use materials, like photopolymer, that will guarantee compliance. It is also important to note that using all-gender signs goes beyond compliance with ADA and other regulations. It sends a message of inclusivity and accessibility that will shape our society in the upcoming years.
About Nova Polymers: Nova Polymers is the largest manufacturer and distributor of photopolymer sign products in the United States, Canada, Europe, The Middle East, and Australia. As the world’s most specified manufacturer, we manufacture and distribute materials and equipment that are used to produce Architectural & Accessible Signage that meet or exceed all domestic and international standards for accessibility.