Last month, we did a series on designing for mental health.
Because our jobs as architects and designers could be in a way described as professional people watchers and problem solvers, we have decided to keep the monthly observations going.
The month of June not only marks the beginning of summer, but also observes the celebration of LGBT pride as declared in 2016.
In honor of this, it is important to bring up the topic of inclusive design.
Every design decision has the potential to include or exclude customers. Inclusive design emphasizes the contribution that understanding user diversity makes to informing these decisions, and thus to including as many people as possible.
For business owners, this means that you want to appeal to as many people as possible without the chance of anyone not being able to access your services.
From an economic standpoint, the The LGBT community is a significant contributor to the U.S. economy.
The combined buying power of U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults rose about 3.7 percent to $917 billion from 2015 to 2016, rivaling the disposable income of other American minority groups, according to an annual analysis.
One way to design inclusively for the LGBTQ community is to incorporate gender neutral bathrooms.
In the past couple years, this has been a controversial debate citing transphobia and fear of exposing young children to predatory harms or social curiosities their parents may not be ready to address.
However, history tells us that the early dawn of sex-segregated public restrooms did not come about for these reasons so much as they were actually “a result of social anxieties about women’s places in the world.”
For a very long time, gendering spaces was an act to safely transition women into the workforce which was also known at the time as a “man’s world”.
In an interesting turn of events, it has now stemmed the new issue of how can public spaces respect all genders whether male, female, LGB&T- binary or nonbinary.
Segregated restrooms may have been originally intended to be socially progressive for the time being (1700-1800’s) by considering women and their safety and privacy by design, but times are forever changing and it is important for designers to be aware of such changes.
The solution may very well be as simple as getting rid of spaces labeled anything gender-specific but still account for the user’s safety and privacy as it historically once intended to do. Instead of “segregating bathrooms to make it safer for female users”, perhaps we should refocus on a means of planning for safety and privacy for all.
With spaces tiered from public access to most private being the actual individual toilet room, it is in the transitioning communal semi-private/public spaces that should be more intentional by design.
One of the most popular designs for gender neutral bathrooms is the “single-occupancy” which has its own door and full height walls between stalls with sinks typically shared in a common area directly outside the toilet rooms.
One trans accounts their experience:
More recently, I went to a restaurant that had no gendered bathrooms whatsoever. Instead, there was an open, communal area with seven or eight sinks, flanked on either side by a dozen individually locking bathroom stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors. It was totally comfortable, completely gender-neutral and, most importantly, provided plenty of privacy in which to do your business.
The quality of buildings and spaces has a strong influence on the quality of people’s lives.
Even though accessibility has improved over the last decade, and planning policy has shifted to include once-excluded communities, the challenge still remains within outdated buildings and spaces.
Today, the rise of the LGBT community, its increasing worldwide acceptance, and their growing purchasing power, has forced corporations to change their marketing strategies to compete for the LGBT niche market.