Caught Short / by Paul Choy

As hard as it might be to believe today, but when the iconic Flatiron Building first opened in New York, there were no female bathrooms.

This wasn't a deliberate omission. The lack of ladies toilets wasn't being used to make a bold statement or prove a point. Rather the building designers simply forgot to include any.

A common sense solution was quickly found, with bathrooms on alternate floors being designated as either male or female, but this solution was only arrived at after the building was opened. The fact that none of the many hundreds of people, who worked on the building, noticed there were no ladies restrooms tells us much about how little society valued women, when the building first opened in 1902.

More than a hundred years later, an awful lot has changed. We still have a long way to go to eradicate the gender imbalance in our society, but few of us could contemplate a time when women were so invisible as to hardly merit consideration.

And yet, there are still so many people in society we do forget.

Far too many buildings are still being designed without giving proper consideration to the needs of people with a disability. We continue to use steps when a ramp is just as easy to build, we still design bathrooms without thought to how others in our society might need to use them.

Just as the Flatiron building before, these oversights aren't being used to make bold statements, or prove a point. We are simply still forgetting the needs of people who have become invisible to us. One hundred years from now, I wonder if these modern day omissions will be as shocking to society as a twenty story building without a single female bathroom.