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Insights on Gender Neutral Restroom Pictograms

ADA Sign Depot

May 18, 2015

ADA Sign Depot

Insights on Gender Neutral Restroom Pictograms

Many transgender people prefer gender neutral public restrooms. For many early in transition, or with genderqueer or gender nonconforming appearance, it’s because choosing a designated male or female bathroom is often a choice between getting yelled at or getting beat up.

Restrooms need signs, and the ADA has minimum requirements for public restroom signs. These requirements are:

• Gender pictogram(s) to show gender use of the bathroom.

• The International Symbol for Accessibility (ISI) pictogram to show whether there are or aren’t facilities for people in wheelchairs.

• Tactile letters showing who the room is for. That can include WOMEN, MEN, or UNISEX, or can just state BATHROOM or RESTROOM.

Airport sign

• A 70 percent (“high”) color contrast between the color of the sign and the text.

• Grade 2 Braille translation of the word or words on the sign.

These signs are placed on the side of public restroom doors so that the blind can read the gender use of the bathrooms without the door opening up on them as they are reading who the bathroom is for.

California has separate requirements for public restroom doors, so a second California compliant restroom sign is required to be placed on the public restroom door itself, and has tactile symbols. The California requirements for those symbols are:

• Men’s restrooms are identified by a 1/4 inch thick equilateral triangle with 12 inch long edges and the vertex pointing up. The color of the symbol must contrast with that of the door.

• Women’s restrooms are identified by a 1/4 inch thick circle with a 12 inch diameter. The color of the symbol must contrast with that of the door.

• Unisex restrooms are identified by the 12 inch circle with the designated 12 inch triangle superimposed on it. The color of the triangle must contrast with that of the circle which must contrast with the color of the door.

For California signs, there is no requirement for pictograms or text, although there can be.

So for the ADA required signs for the sides of public restroom doors, one can see why a business or nonprofit which wishes to advertise their inclusivity would want to come up with a separate transgender pictogram. I’d argue against going that route.

ADA Sign Depot’s Gender Neutral Restroom Door  sign

ADA Sign Depot All Gender Transgender SymbolTrans community member discomfort often comes with that third gender pictogram of a half-man/half-woman. I’ve talked to a number of trans people over the years who look at that half-man/half-woman pictogram and see it at best as third gendering or at worst saying “she-male” – she-m*** pretty much being the worst pejorative that one can call a trans person.

Perhaps the best way to show inclusivity isn’t to include the half-man/half-woman pictogram on the ADA compliant sign. Trans positive language of “ALL GENDER RESTROOM” or “GENDER NEUTRAL RESTROOM” with just the standard male, female and disability pictograms would certainly be welcomed without the half-man/half-woman pictogram.

Perhaps the best way to show inclusivity could better be accomplished within the California required tactile sign on the public restroom door. For example, the online store ADASignDepot.com has a sign with the California unisex sign in blue and white with a blue transgender symbol in the center of a white triangle.

All the messaging of inclusivity with a symbol without the third-gendering of an awkward pictogram. It’s a thought.



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