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City softens single-user restroom regulations
by Matt Simonette
2017-11-12

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According to a code memo issued by Commissioner Judith Frydland on Oct. 17, businesses have the option of designating each single-user restroom as unisex.

Frydland wrote that "many believe that single-user unisex restrooms are more welcoming for parents and guardians accompanying small children, individuals who may require assistance from a caregiver, and transgender and gender nonconforming people. For small restaurants and bars, which are often required to provide at least two single-user restrooms, a unisex designation maintains availability for all users when one of the single user restrooms is in use or being cleaned. Single-user unisex restrooms have long been the norm on commercial airplanes."

The policy is optional, Frydland added.

Kim Hunt, executive director of Pride Action Tank ( PAT ), who has worked extensively on the Chicago Restroom Accessibility Project ( CRAP ), a project of PAT, said that the rule is "something that CRAP has been fighting for since its inception."

Such a policy "can reduce lines, and allow caretakers of different genders to assist others, whether they are there to aid people with certain medical conditions or young children," she added. Transgender individuals, Hunt further noted, can have "some piece of mind, knowing that they won't be policed or stared at should they try to use the bathroom."

Architect Matt Nardella of Moss Design, who recently designed the Dill Pickle Food Coop in Logan Square, which utilized such designations, said the policy has "made for nicer bathrooms" that end up occupying less space in an establishment.

"We can extinguish the 'debate' over who can use which bathroom by designing them in this manner," he said. Nardella said that he knew of two other businesses in the city using such configurations.

But Nardella pointed to city policy that still needs to be addressed, noting that, "The memo's language seems to abolish the use of separate toilet rooms with a shared sink unless those particular fixtures are in excess of the required minimum."

Hunt added that she would like to see the single-user policy formally added to city's building codes, noting that, "It's what cities in other countries have done."


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