Is gender specified signage in sanitary facilities required?

F2.4 Accessible Sanitary Facilities
In a building required to be accessible –

The above reference from the 2016 National Construction Code (NCC) Volume One of the Building Code of Australia (BCA), instructs the provision of hygiene facilities fit for use by males and females with disability. The BCA is specific in assigning all accessible sanitary facilities, and in some cases, general facilities, as unisex. In fact, the word ‘unisex’ is mentioned 39 times in the current NCC Volume One of the BCA, mostly when referring to accessible toilets.

The promotion of accessible sanitary facilities for both males and females may be seen as a more equitable and fair provision of toilets, which is, according to the Australian Standards 1428.2-1992, designed for use by people with disabilities who are accompanied by a carer of the opposite sex. However, what happens when the person with disability does not identify themselves as either gender? Or, perhaps, their carer doesn’t either?

People who identify outside of a gender binary can be seen as discriminated against where only male, female, or unisex facilities are available. See a similar article here: https://www.disabilityaccessconsultants.com.au/cant-unisex-ambulant-toilet/

SDA Specialist Disability Accommodation Under The NDIS

Equal Access disbaility access consultants undertake specialised SDA Specialist Disability Accommodation Assessments in accordance with the requirements of the NDIS and NDIA throughout Australia.

Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) refers accommodation for participants who are eligible for specialist housing solutions to assist with the delivery of environmental supports to cater for their significant functional impairment and/or meet their very high (support) needs. SDA refers to the homes in which support services are delivered, and may include specific designs for people with very high needs or may be located as such for viable provision of high level support and care to facilitate independent living.

From 1 July 2016, SDA will be funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS; Scheme), with an aim to enable people with disability to have greater choice and control over support services and housing facilities. In Metropolitan Melbourne, the NDIS rollout has already begun in the North East, due to be followed by other districts from 1 November 2017.

How the NDIA determines who is eligible

The NDIA will determine which NDIS participants will benefit from specialist disability accommodation, by conducting various assessments with references to two sets of criteria:

Why Can’t I Have A Unisex Ambulant Toilet?

A unisex toilet is a public toilet designed to be suitable for use by both males and females, and is now often extended for use by persons of any gender, which benefits population groups who identify themselves as any identity outside the boundaries of male/female.

Here at Equal Access we often receive inquiries as to why new developments or upgrade works have triggered the required provision of single gender ambulant toilets.

Adult with an ambulant disability using crutches

Adult with an ambulant disability using crutches

Changes to the 2016 National Construction Code (NCC) Volume 1 of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) has incorporated an amendment to Part F2 Sanitary and Other Facilities. The new change, specifically Clause F2.3(a), instructs the provision of separate sanitary facilities for males and females, with minimal exceptions. The provision of unisex accessible sanitary compartments (and showers) is one exception, which was also mandated in the now superseded 2015 NCC.

To acquire an understanding of why the Victorian Building Authority promotes and regulates the provision of unisex accessible toilets we may find insight in AS 1428.2-1992, where Clause 15 regarding Sanitary Facilities notes a unisex toilet is recommended for general use by the public where a person with a disability may be accompanied by a member of the opposite sex (a carer for example).