News / Vancouver

Lack of accessible toilets keeps some Vancouverites at home, city told

While the City of Vancouver requires all city buildings to have accessible washrooms, there is no similar rule for public toilets on streets

A public toilet near Jim Deva Plaza on Davie Street

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

A public toilet near Jim Deva Plaza on Davie Street

When you gotta go, you gotta go — but for some Vancouver residents, the fear of getting caught without access to a washroom is preventing them from leaving home and taking part in city life.

“The seniors’ advisory committee has been focused on isolation and loneliness,” said Colleen McGinnis, chair of the city’s seniors advisory committee, at a Nov. 2 council meeting.

“For some people the uncertainty of access to washrooms limits where they go and whether they actually leave home.”

While the City of Vancouver requires all city buildings to have accessible washrooms, there is no similar rule for public toilets on streets and in or near new plazas. Visiting a bathroom in a coffee shop or other business isn’t an option for many people on limited incomes, McGinnis said, when many businesses restrict their washrooms to customers who have made a purchase.

When the new Jim Deva Plaza at Davie and Bute was completed, members of the seniors’ committee were surprised to discover a wheelchair accessible washroom had not been added. The city is now planning to add an accessible toilet, but in the future the committee would like the city to add accessible toilets to any new park, plaza or street development.

Council voted unanimously to adopt the committee’s motion to direct staff to include accessible public toilets in future planning processes.

The city has published a map showing the location of all public toilets, but McGinnis noted that map is virtually useless to people with disabilities who need a wheelchair-accessible washroom.

Danica Djurkovic, director of facilities development, said the city can update the map to indicate which bathrooms are accessible. 

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