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How Inclusion can Exclude: The Case of Public Toilet Provision for Women

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Our built environment is required to meet human needs at the most basic of levels. If our pavements and roads afford our movement across the built environment's landscapes, then provisions should also be in place to meet the needs of the body in motion. This paper will take a historical perspective of the introduction and design of public toilets to illustrate how certain spaces in the city were defined by the bodies that toilet provision served. It will show how biological functions such as menstruation are not being met by public toilet design and infrastructure, and how overall provision is inadequate for women for both biological and social factors. Public toilets reflect and reinforce a binary gender society, resulting in some users being excluded or their rights to access challenged by others. A new chapter is currently being written regarding the needs of transgender people, raising questions around existing design differences between men's and women's toilets and the very notion of segregating public toilets by gender, evident through the growing numbers of 'gender-neutral toilets'. However, these changes to public toilet design and provision are emerging without expert guidance and with a lack of research into how this might positively or negatively impact different groups. Designers, architects and planners are facing a series of interesting challenges when considering how new and existing UK provision can be inclusive of a diversity of bodies and their rights to access without excluding those socially and culturally dependent on a gender-segregated space.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2018

More about this publication?
  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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