This guest blog post is from Joan Kuyek of GottaGo!.
The GottaGo! campaign in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is advocating for a network of open clean, accessible public toilets and water fountains in key places in the region.
Currently, the only public toilets in Ottawa are in recreation centres, libraries and large parks. When the programming is closed, however, so are the toilets and that is most of the time. Major transit stations lack public toilets and the City recently decided – outrageously – that the proposed new Light Rail Transit Line (LRT) would not include them at its stations.
We think that the only reason public toilets have not been seen as a necessity by the City is that people and businesses have remained silent about the issue. In so doing, they have quietly absorbed the enormous privatized social costs of not having public toilets available. The strategy of GottaGo! is to make the externalized costs visible. How will we do it? Lots of media work, talks with key decision-makers, and encouraging people to speak out.
The GottaGo! membership represents people from all walks of life: from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, to parents of young children, seniors, outdoor enthusiasts and university researchers.
So far, the campaign has met with enormous interest and enthusiasm in Ottawa. The local Community Foundation recently said that we were the most effective grassroots group the City has seen in years. Local radio stations and newspapers have championed the cause and applauded the launch of our website earlier this month.
Our challenge is to change the statements of support into the dollars to make this network of toilets happen. Creating a toilet network will not be cheap, and it is the long-term operating costs that make the City nervous in a time of fiscal constraint.
We have six solutions we propose for the network:
- Ensure that open, clean accessible public toilets and water fountains are installed in the proposed LRT stations
- Invest in signage, appropriate hours, staffing, improvements and maintenance for existing public toilets to bring them to an standard fitting to a national capital
- Provide subsidies to private businesses in key locations in return for improvements to their toilet facilities, open access, oversight and signage
- Add at least one 24/7 unisex wheel-chair accessible, direct access facility to public buildings in high traffic areas. Invest in at least two adult “changing stations” for severely disabled users.
- Require new developments in key areas to provide for wheelchair/unisex direct access toilets as part of their permitting
- Build/install new architecturally beautiful public toilets where required.
GottaGo! has caught the imagination of people all over the Ottawa region. We mean to win.