With a diverse population at the University of Waterloo (UW), Rida Khan, discussed the culturally inclusive washroom pilot that has recently been implemented by the Equity Office. These washrooms are not only designed to fit the needs of gender-diverse populations, but to also accommodate the expectations of people from various cultural backgrounds, specifically with the introduction of the handheld bidet on toilets.
“There’s one inclusive washroom right now that has a handheld bidet” Khan, a UW Honours Planning alum, said. “We have so many students who are Muslims [or] are from Asia who use it. Even Europeans use it.”
Typically, the term “inclusive washrooms” refers to washrooms that are focused on providing gender-diverse people with a safe space to use the washroom. While this is important, Khan wants to expand on the idea of inclusivity in washrooms to also be able to create safe and hygenic spaces for those of various cultural backgrounds. An idea that she brought to the table is pilotting a toilet with a handheld bidet. “When I was going to university, I found that there are people who are not going to the washroom all day because they did not feel like they were hygenic enough for them to use,” Khan said. “Other students and I were seeing and we all agreed that the handheld bidet on campus would make our lives easier.”
Inclusive washrooms have existed on the UW campus for several years now, however, handheld bidets are something new that the Equity Office has just started implementing. “This feature is not just going to be [for] inclusive bathrooms, this is a feature that they want to place in washrooms all over the campus,” Khan said.
Khan noted that with a large proportion of UW students originating from the Middle East, Asia, or Europe; where bidets in toilets are widespread, including handheld bidets in campus washrooms could reduce a lot of waste that result from students who currently use creative alternatives to the bidet. “So many people use water bottles when they need to go to the washroom, or wet wipes and what not,” Khan said. “There’s lots of reports about how using a lot of toilet paper is actually clogging the system and I feel like reducing the use of plastic water bottles and just providing an alternative to that, that students can actually use, is so doable.”
Khan’s background in urban planning has helped her realize that people are not using excessive toilet paper and plastic water bottles because it’s what they want to do, it’s because they do not have a better option. “Providing people with the choice actually matters. Once you provide them with the choice, they’ll start using it, too … It’s just that Canada hasn’t given people the choice [to use the bidets].”