On Friday, Yelp announced that it will now allow users to find out if a business has a gender neutral bathroom. Yelp’s definition of a gender neutral bathroom is a single-stall bathroom accessible by any gender.
There are third-party apps such as REFUGE Restrooms that allow individuals to find restrooms that are safe or accessible for all genders, but this is the first time we’ve seen this sort of feature rolled out in an app used as broadly as Yelp. The feature will now exist on desktop and mobile, and according to the company, in the next few weeks, users will be able to specifically search for gender neutral bathrooms. (We’re guessing this means it will be introduced as a filter, but we’ve reached out to confirm.)
So how will Yelp get this information? On the Yelp blog, the company details how it will work:
Yelp will collect this information from users and business owners in two ways. We will begin asking users who check into or review businesses like restaurants and retail shops if those establishments offer restrooms that are gender neutral. Additionally, businesses owners can edit the Gender Neutral Restrooms attribute from their business user account.
The only potentially concerning aspect here is that regular users will be able to signify if a business has a gender neutral bathroom, not just the business itself. On one hand, this means a lot more data points can be added to Yelp’s database. On the other hand, because people are assholes, trolls could potentially misrepresent that status of an establishment’s bathroom.
Moreover, since REFUGE Restrooms’ database is open source, it would be nice to see Yelp open to integrating some of that data into its system, too. At the very least, that would make the feature more accessible more quickly.
As for the timing, Yelp’s decision to add gender neutral bathroom identification to its platform probably isn’t coincidental. Just last week, President Trump overturned an Obama-administration directive that told public schools they would have to allow students to access the bathroom of their choice. Meanwhile, earlier this week, Yelp, along with 52 other tech companies, signed an amicus brief on behalf of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen who is suing his high school over the right to use the boys bathroom. Grimm’s case will be heard by the Supreme Court later this month.