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Advocacy for the Availability of Public Restrooms

We have all been in situations in public when we've either needed a restroom and none were available or we've stood on that dreaded LONG line waiting forever to use the female facilities while the men breezed through.  How many times have we vowed to do something about this?  Now, someone is doing something.  The Public Restroom Initiative is dedicated to the needs of rectifying the lack of available or sufficient public toilet facilities.

The entertainment industry often portrays someone hunched in urgent need of a toilet as humorous. In reality, extreme duress is painful and can even be harmful.  Metroped's 'Public Restroom Initiative' [www.metroped.org] site is intended as an information source for advocates working to improve the quality of life for individuals who are constrained by a lack of public toilet facilities -- people for whom their work, their activities, and where and how they travel is constrained by lack of toilet accommodation. This includes everyone -- from those with incontinence (approximately 30 million Americans), to parents with small children, to those confined to wheelchairs, to those who are simply too often "on the go" to "go" at home. Of particular interest to this initiative is any public policy that acts as impediment the "restroom challenged."

Working with the support of Dr. Ingrid Nygaard, Metroped is attempting to resolve the gap in the regulations that dictate the availability toilets in public areas. Dr. Nygaard is a surgeon and urogynecologist at the University of Iowa. She is the co-author of Void Where Prohibited, the book that was the genesis of the OSHA 1995 Toilet Regulation.  This regulation and the laws that require toilets in buildings, at food establishments, and at special events protect the health of those who need to void when away from home.

Unfortunately, these regulations do not encompass all situations or locations. They do not account for:

  • Commuter mass-transit systems with no provisions for patrons experiencing urgency
  • Municipalities where the only public restrooms are in buildings open only during business hours
  • Athletic fields without facilities [Young women in particular are loath to play mixed league sports without at least a chemical toilet.]
The Toilet Availability Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) issued by OSHA is powerful but OSHA's authority is limited to the work place. The goal is to have a comparable CFR issued by an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information on the Public Restroom Initiative, click here.

For more information on incontinence, click here.

Created: 9/25/2002  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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