A new “Gender Neutral” restroom law will be enforced in California for all public agencies as well as private businesses early next year.
Governor Brown signed into law on September 29, 2016, AB 1732 the new “Single-user” restroom law to include all gender rights to use any restroom.
As of right now, this law only affects single-accommodation restrooms that contain one fixture such as a toilet. But on March 1st, 2017 California will be enforcing this new law that requires that all men and women’s single use restrooms have their signage changed to reflect the gender neutral raised tactile wording and pictograms.
The exact wording of this new bill is very interesting and concerning to me as an ADA inspector.
One thing that stands out to me is that the author of this bill does not take into consideration any accessibility requirements in this bill.
What about trans-gender, gender neutral or non-gender specific disabled persons?
This is going to create a potential tidal wave of compliance issues for “existing single use” combination restrooms in pre-1990 facilities. For years, I have evaluated men’s and women’s single accommodation restrooms that were both built too small 30 years ago and do not meet the new construction standards. In many cases, the owner and contractor would remodel one of the restrooms to make it a fully accessible “unisex restroom”. This changed the men’s or women’s restroom into a Unisex and left the other restroom as “Non-accessible”.
Very seldom would I encounter just a men’s or women’s single accommodation restroom inside a business or facility. Usually, both are provided and they are usually provided within the same area.
So, a few questions pop into my head as I read this new bill, but it really comes down to this: why is the current Unisex Restroom signage not acceptable?
It already identifies both men and women in the pictogram and allows any gender to use the restroom.
What is the real reason for the change in wording from “Unisex” to “Gender-Neutral”?
I wanted to understand exactly what the trans-gender community is looking for here so I called one of my clients in San Francisco who completed gender-reassignment a few years ago to get her perspective. We talked at length about business concerns, the economy and then the new all-gender restroom law. I found it very interesting that she felt this whole thing is merely political pandering and that this new law doesn’t really change anything for her.
She stated that even during her transition, she would use whichever restroom was available and never felt like anyone was judging her.
I remember several occasions while attending concerts that the line for the women’s multi-accommodation restroom was backed up and some women would just walk right into the men’s room and use it. It caught me off guard, but it didn’t offend me or anyone else in the restroom at the time.
When you really have to go, gender-identity is the last thing on your mind right?
Besides, this law only affects single use restrooms not multi-accommodation restrooms.
Only one person is allowed in the restroom at a time so who really cares what gender they are?
It was interesting that my trans-gender client had very real concerns about the economy and the growth of her business here in California. She commented about “over-regulation” and the excessive cost of doing business here. Here parting comment about the “gender-neutral” restroom law was that it is “silly” and does not change her life in any meaningful way.
I showed her a humorous picture of an all-gender restroom sign and she laughed out loud and said “Yes, but please wipe the seat off first, then wash your hands”
She stated “If Governor Brown wanted to pass a law that makes a difference, pass a law that requires that if someone pee’s on the seat, to wipe it off before they exit the restroom”
We both agreed on this idea.
Here is the exact text of the new law.
Assembly Bill No. 1732
An act to add Article 5 (commencing with Section 118600) to Chapter 2 of Part 15 of Division 104 of the Health and Safety Code, relating to restrooms.[ Approved by Governor September 29, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State September 29, 2016. ]
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
Existing law requires a public agency, as defined, that serves the public or is open to the public and maintains toilet facilities to make those facilities available to the public free of charge. Existing law requires publicly and privately owned facilities where the public congregates, as defined, to maintain a sufficient number of temporary or permanent toilet facilities to meet the needs of the public at peak hours. Existing law also requires each business establishment to provide, within reasonable access, a sufficient number of toilet facilities for the use of the employees.
This bill would, commencing March 1, 2017, require all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or government agency to be identified as all-gender toilet facilities, as specified. The bill would authorize inspectors, building officials, or other local officials responsible for code enforcement to inspect for compliance with these provisions during any inspection.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Article 5 (commencing with Section 118600) is added to Chapter 2 of Part 15 of Division 104 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:
Article 5. Single-User Restrooms
- (a) All single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency shall be identified as all-gender toilet facilities by signage that complies with Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, and designated for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted use.
(b) During any inspection of a business or a place of public accommodation by an inspector, building official, or other local official responsible for code enforcement, the inspector or official may inspect for compliance with this section.
(c) For the purposes of this section, “single-user toilet facility” means a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.
(d) This section shall become operative on March 1, 2017.
If you have single use restrooms in your building or facility and have questions about this new law and what to do moving forward, please contact me directly.