Public washroom access is an essential service.
Keep toilets opens and safe during COVID-19! The lockdown of public facitilites such as Starbucks, McDonalds, Tim Horton’s, gas stations and other private institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic amplified a gap in our city’s citizens’ accessibility to on-street, accessible, paid-for-by-municipal governments bathrooms. A Usask college of medicine student took to determining why access to public washrooms is important and what can be done to improve this access:
Did you know you exercise your fundamental human rights every time you use the toilet?
Public Washrooms are an essential service. Why is access to public washrooms so important?
1. Public washroom access is a fundamental human right
2. It affects everyone, especially our more vulnerable populations
3. It is a quality of life issue
4. It is a public health issue
5. It encourages community engagement
6. PUBLIC washrooms creates equal access to washrooms for everyone
What did Public Washroom Access look like in Saskatoon during the pandemic?
All city operated public washrooms were closed to the public during the Pandemic until Phase 4 opening by the province. Access was provided to essential City of Saskatoon staff. AIDS Saskatoon (now Prairie Harm Reduction) was eventually able to operate a public washroom that was regularily cleaned and sanitized in early June.
What goes in has to come out!
Access to toilet is essential for life! What can be done to enhance public washroom access?
1. Lobby for city council to introduce a bill for public washrooms installation and promotion.
2. Increase the number of city operated washrooms within the city.
3. Provide a full-time attendant/monitor for permanent or mobile city operated public washrooms.
What else can be done to enhance public washroom access?
4. Implement social enterprise partnership arrangements between city and businesses to voluntarily contract with the city to make their toilets available to the public.
5. Create City partnerships with a private suppliers to provide and maintain public washrooms in exchange for advertising space.
6. Explore the feasibility of automatic public toilets.
7. Ensure citizens are aware of where they are once Public Washrooms are available.
Who else recognized public washrooms as an essential service during the pandemic?
Other Canadian cities that addressed the challenge of access to public washrooms during the pandemic through portable washrooms or quick reopening of designated washroom locations included 1. Toronto and Ottawa, On 2. Prince George, BC. 3. Vancouver, BC 4. Edmonton, AB
Public washroom access should be considered an essential service and exempted from closure like other essential services such as grocery stores, hospitals etc. during a pandemic.
What can be done to maintain public washroom access safety in these times? 1. Support proper hand hygiene, physcial distancing, and mask use with signage 2. Provide floor markers and decomissioning some urinals and sink basins to further encourage physical distancing. 3. Maximize facility ventilation. 4. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of the washrooms.