Ladies Toilets and Big Boobs
Recently I joined the Manchester Women's Design group for one of their regular meetings. It's one of those events in the calendar I don't normally get to go to because of other events clashing. The last time I attended was probably about 2 years ago, but it was very memorable, and that's where the toilets bit comes in.
Straight away you're probably questioning the content of this post, but don't worry it's all above board, and actually quite interesting!
The lasting thing I took away from the design group meeting that long ago, was the discussion around who designs ladies toilets and how.
Toilets, are actually very complex things to design it turns out, it's got to have enough room for all the actual plumbing, the toilet, the door, enough room for the door to move. How many times have you ever tried to squeeze into a cubical because the door opens the same side the big chunky toilet roll dispenser is on. It seems to be a balance of design for convenience and practicality vs costs of materials and build.
Then, there was an interesting discussion over who is designing these builds, and if they have consider the space for sanitary waste bins, room to have all your bags in with you, down to the types of lock on the door - you know, those ones that when replaced leave small visible holes in the walls.
If you've even been to Euston train station's toilets I think they're pretty cleverly designed, some are larger than most with a suitcase symbol on the door. Great idea to have a few toilet cubicles with enough room to take your whelie suitcase in with you. As I travel alone a lot for work, I find it a regular struggle to either drag all your bags into the space with you, or risk it not being there two minutes later if you leave them outside.
So that conversation, has actually carried with me and changed the way I look at the spaces around us, especially toilets.
The latest project the MWDG undertook was a survey about women in the construction industry. Another sector of working lives that are effected by the gender imbalance and some interesting stats can be found at Manchester Women's Design Group Blog there's also more information about the work being done around equality in construction at the fab Construction Equality
Another discussion strand of the meeting focussed around the events we could do for women and the events and campaigns that had already made a positive impact to people's lives. I brought up the interesting story about the FBU (The Fire Brigade Union) fighting for the rights of female fire fighters to have access to adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to be able to carry out their work safely. Pants being too long, boots too wide and the bigger concern it seemed was about the braces for the pants, and the safety harnesses being two vertical straps down the front of the body, which if you've got boobs, can hurt and even from some ladies experiences, cut into the flesh and leave lasting scars. So it was important to fight for recognition for these brave women who save lives everyday, to be safe and comfortable when carrying out their work. So now they have the right to request female boots, trousers, and smaller helmets, along with the all important cross shaped harnesses and braces crossing diagonally at the chest... around the boobs.
Hopefully these two stories alone, will make you stop and think, and raise an awareness for the importance of design for specific demographics. We are getting used to the idea of designing spaces and items for people with disabilities, now we need to roll that out to others. This opened my eyes to the world a little more, I hope it has for you too.