In order to make restrooms at the University of Nebraska at Omaha safer and more inclusive, the signs on numerous restrooms will progress beyond girl and boy stick figures.
According to UNO’s website, the signs on two family and 22 single-stall restrooms will be updated this fall to support people with disabilities, families and UNO’s queer and trans spectrum community.
According to the Director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Jessi Hitchins, the restroom sign changes will feature a baby if there is a changing table, an active wheelchair symbol to show accessibility and a toilet to show the restroom is open to all people, no matter what gender they identify with or how they express themselves.
“We wanted to showcase our value system as a UNO campus as saying that we expect you to feel safe and welcome on this campus,” Hitchins said. “We are putting these signs out there that are not only going to have no gender signage in our all-inclusive gender bathroom, but the changing space and active wheelchair symbol, and that really goes to the fact that we want people to know this is a safe and welcoming space for them.”
Hitchins said the new restroom signs will also feature language to further emphasize UNO’s value system and nondiscrimination policy.
“UNO, for several years before I even got here, has included gender identity and sexual orientation, which is a national best practice, in our nondiscrimination notice,” Hitchins said. “It’s one thing to say we will not discriminate, but it’s another step to take to say we are going to actually show we want you to feel included no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation.”
Hitchins emphasizes the important of the restroom sign changes for UNO’s queer and trans spectrum community students.
“For people who specifically are transgender, nonconforming people, we have seen on a national level people are facing some seriously nasty consequences needing to do something that all of us need to do, which is go to the bathroom and use the bathroom,” Hitchins said.
“With people exposed enough… that is a learning experience of saying this campus is a safe place, and I need to support that as well, even if I’m a cisgender person.”
The adjustments being made to the restroom signs on campus meet the expectations set by the LGBT Task Force and the legislation passed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to senior neuroscience major and Student Director of Queer and Trans Services Kersten Crate, the restroom sign changes happening at UNO reflect changes occurring across the U.S.
“There is a national conversation happening about these bathroom signs and the new interpretation of Title IX,” Crate said. “Knowing that UNO has a commitment to Title IX makes me feel safer as a queer woman and hopefully makes trans and gender nonconforming folks feel that way, too.”
Crate also cites the university’s diversity goals as helping to bring about change to “the macro power structures in the United States.”
“UNO has the ability to help change the voices that get heard, and in return, even out the playing field a little bit,” Crate said. “UNO can’t change everything, but by protecting some of its most vulnerable students … they can help get those voices into positions of power.”
Hitchins said the new restroom signs will be put up all across campus this fall. UNO’s Wayfinding Committee created the new signs.