Row over change of NUI Galway disabled toilets to transgender ones

Disabled campaigner describes change as political correctness

NUI Galway confirmed there are 90 toilets across campus for students with a physical disability of which 14 are also designated as gender neutral

NUI Galway confirmed there are 90 toilets across campus for students with a physical disability of which 14 are also designated as gender neutral

 

Ronan McGreevy

A disabled campaigner has described NUI Galway’s decision to change disabled toilets to an all-gender (transgender) toilets as “deeply offensive”.

Emer Coyne, a mature arts student at the university, said she was shocked the university had changed the only disabled toilet in the nursing library to an all-gender toilet.

There are now 30 transgender toilets on campus; 14 of them were formerly disabled toilets.

Ms Coyne, who is registered disabled following Ovarian cancer, claimed the university was reducing accessibility for disabled people in the name of political correctness and to accommodate a small number of transgender people on campus.

“I don’t believe accessibility for the most seriously disabled on campus should be reduced to accommodate fully able-bodied people,” she said. “Equal rights for them (transgender people) does not mean fewer rights for people with disabilities.”

She accused NUI Galway of not thinking through its policy on changing disabled toilets to gender neutral toilets.

“It’s an insult to students with disabilities. If you don’t have a car space to suit you do you take a disabled one? No because it’s not right. I am understanding of students that need gender neutral toilets, but taking disabled toilets is absolutely not the solution, they need to find another solution- a more appropriate one.”

NUI Galway confirmed there are 90 toilets across campus for students with a physical disability of which 14 are also designated as gender neutral.

“The focus is on addressing the needs of all of our students and staff in a practical way, and the university will continue its dialogue with students and staff so that facilities meet the requirements of our diverse campus communities,” the university said in a statement.

The arrangement was defended by NUI Galway Students’ Union. President Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh said the toilets in question were not being reallocated or converted, but have simply been designated as both gender neutral bathrooms and disability bathrooms.

“One has not been replaced with the other,” he said

Mr Ó Maoileannaigh said the move had been supported by the university’s buildings office, all of students services and the students’ union.

Mr Ó Maoileannaigh said only a “very small percentage of students who identify as trans and non-binary” will use them but that it was important to improve accessibility for transgender students and would not be at the expense of disabled students.

“We have not had any student who has had accessibility problems since the signage on the bathrooms has been changed,” he said.