City of Pickering explains what ‘universal’ in universal change room means

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Published July 4, 2023 at 9:28 am

After hearing concerns from some residents about the universal change room at Chestnut Hills Recreation Centre, the City of Pickering has decided to set the record straight.

Many of the concerns raised by citizens were not supported by facts and some were influenced by local Councillor Lisa Robinson and her stand on several issues, from anti-Pride to the new universal changeroom, which opened last fall as part of multi-million upgrades to the nearly 40 year-old building.

Robinson had said she was going to bring a motion forward to the June 25 Council meeting – the last scheduled meeting before September – opposing the new change room but was a no-show and instead expressed her views via a far-right YouTube podcast.

So what does ‘Universal’ in universal change room mean?

The universal change room, with private changing rooms, and washrooms is just that, said the City. “It can be used universally by all persons, regardless of who they are or how they may identify. These spaces are inclusive of guests with disabilities, members of all gender identities, and any who wish for privacy for any number of reasons.”

All guests are required to be clothed at all times while in the common area, including the showers, while individual change stalls provide privacy and modesty for all guests. Unlike conventional change stalls, the units are designed with high partitions and no gaps between the individual panels.

Concerns over voyeurs, sexual predators and others looking to take advantage of the ‘universal’ aspect of the change room have been unfounded, the City said.

“Like all public facilities, incident reports do occur. However, incident reports are generated for a wide number of reasons, including lost items, mischief/horseplay, using smart phones for selfies or social media, and found contraband items. It should be noted that there has never been an investigated incident that was found to be lewd behavior, or resulted in assault, injury, or arrest.”

The universal change room is a fully-accessible and barrier-free space that provides “dignity and privacy” for all users and any activity that is in contravention of the Zero Tolerance Policy should be reported to City staff.

The social media post from Pickering also noted there already was a universal change room at the facility and it was the residents who asked for the expansion during the public consultation phase when the renovations were being planned.

“Their feedback showed that residents wanted a gender-neutral space that could better serve families with children and those requiring support; those that required disability accommodations; all while offering more privacy. The (facility) had an existing universal changeroom, and the public responses indicated that we needed an expansion of that space as it had become too small for our growing community, which led to the expanded space.”

Visit pickering.ca/aquatics for more facility details.

 

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