As part of WIT Students' Union's (WITSU) Equality & Inclusion Week 2017, gender-neutral bathrooms have been opened across all WIT campuses. The week is centered around respecting difference and celebrating diversity through a number of campaigns and events.
33 gender-neutral bathrooms are now available throughout the Cork Road Campus, 12 in the West Campus, 4 in the College Street Campus, 1 in the Granary Campus and 1 in the Applied Technology Building resulting in a total of 51 bathrooms being opened.
Gender specific bathrooms are potentially unsafe and intimidating places for a variety of people. People with disabilities who need the assistance of an attendant of a different gender are unable to access facilities. Families with children report difficulty taking their different-sex children (such as mothers with sons, fathers with daughters) into bathrooms. Another problem that arises in a gendered space is one of intimidation. When that gendered space is one like a bathroom, a place that everyone should be able to go without incident and without feeling intimidated, addressing this problem becomes increasingly significant.
WITSU Welfare Officer, Michael Murphy, has been working towards the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms for the last few months and is delighted to see so many of them now open around WIT. "WITSU and other Students' Unions nationally have been campaigning for this for a long time. It's a huge success for WITSU, our members, and WIT as a whole to finally see these bathrooms available" Michael explained. "A safe and neutral space will now be created for all members and visitors of the Institute. This will cover a number of users whose needs may vary because of a medical condition, being a transgender student, staff member or visitor, or for a parent who needs to assist a child of their opposing gender in using our facilities."
A number of other Irish third-level campuses have introduced gender-neutral bathrooms in recent years including Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick and NUI Galway.
Michael is now working on a Gender Identity and Expression Policy for WIT. “After the opening of gender-neutral bathrooms, this is the next step” he said. Both he and WITSU have been lobbying for this and are hoping to see it complete and in place very soon.