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NYC Public Restrooms Need Better Disability Access

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Monday, August 1, 2022   

The New York City Council is considering asking the Department of Transportation and the Department of Parks and Recreation to develop a report outlining the best locations for public restrooms in every ZIP code in the city.

Currently, New Yorkers can either use public restrooms in the parks or one of the city's newly installed automatic public toilets.

The new report would specifically address accessibility for people living with a disability.

Sharon McLennon-Wier, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled-New York, described one of the biggest issues with the new automatic toilet facilities.

"If someone is using a motorized wheelchair -- and also, they may themselves weigh a certain amount -- they may not be able to access the public restrooms due to the construction of the flooring," McLennon-Wier pointed out. "Which has a weight limit of, I believe, 700 pounds."

She noted another concern is the time limit on the automatic public toilets. The door remains locked for 12 minutes, which might not be enough time for someone with mobility issues. Some solutions would be to extend the time limit and make the structures more permanent, so the floors are better reinforced.

Public restrooms in parks were recently found to be lacking in New York for people with disabilities. According to a 2019 report from the City Comptroller, 69%, or almost 1,000 of the city's 1,428 park restrooms, do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

McLennon-Wier hopes additional facilities will provide a wider range of options.

"With disabled folks having to take Access-A-Ride, and having to worry about wait times and their transportation not being readily available, they have to sit and wonder about if they're going to make it to the bathroom," she observed.

McLennon-Wier added that better access to public restrooms would be a benefit to all New Yorkers. She explained many people find themselves having to carefully consider when or where they can eat or drink because they might not have a restroom nearby.

Disclosure: The Center for Independence of the Disabled-New York contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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