The Smithers Public Library has installed new washroom signs to make the building more inclusive.
Library director Wendy Wright told Interior News the new signs were installed on the two washrooms at the building on March 3.
Previously the smaller washroom had a sign with a figure in pants for men and the larger washroom, with the changing table, had a sign with a figure in a dress for women.
“It was implying that it’s only women who change diapers,” Wright said. “I actually could not believe how I had never noticed that before.”
The smaller washroom now has a sign with symbols for a toilet and sink.
The larger washroom with the changing table now has a sign with the same toilet and sink symbols, plus symbols for a wheelchair and a baby.
“Essentially it went from who is supposed to go into each one, to what you can find in each one,” Wright said.
Library staff decided to make the change after hearing about other libraries doing so and after being contacted by a patron who urged them to make the washrooms gender neutral.
“Within a few days [of installing the signs] I saw a man entering what used to be the women’s washroom with his young son and you could tell from their interaction that he was going to change the diaper,” Wright said, adding that the new signs are already cutting down on washroom wait times.
The signs were custom-made locally and cost $119.
Wright said they had wanted to add braille to the signs, however, the local shops weren’t set up to do that.
“That is something that we’d like to do in the future when we find a way to,” she said. “If anyone has feedback on ways we can make it even better, we would always like to have suggestions for improvement.”
The signs may no longer be needed when the new library and art gallery is complete, Wright said, because they are considering a design with multiple, universal stalls and a communal sink.
“The walls and the door go right down to the ground so it’s completely private,” she said.
Once they have enough funds together, she said an architect will be hired to do a more detailed rendering of the building “and that’s when things like that will be sorted out.”