How to Basics: Accessible Washrooms for People With MCS/ES

So many accessibility guidelines completely skip the fact that these necessary and super easy to implement accessibility measures make it possible for perhaps  1/3 of the population to use (or use without harm) a public (or other) washroom, and especially help provide access for those who have disabling chemical and or environmental “sensitivities” (a term that trivializes the condition and effects).

Fragranced products not only create accessibility barriers for people with chemical and environmental “sensitivities”, fragrance sensitivity, autism, sensory sensitivities, migraines, asthma, MCAS/MCAD, and others, but fragrance ingredients have been linked to a number of other short and serious long term health effects in the general population.

It has come to our attention that too many places that hang up a scent or fragrance-free sign in the front office, have air effers and scented soaps in the washrooms. That’s not how this is done.

How to Basics:
Accessible washrooms for people with environmental sensitivities

Image is of a public washroom with sinks on the left side, a cleaning cart in the middle, and garbage cans holding open the stall doors on the right. There are purple bars across the image with the following lines of accessibility tips text:

–  increased ventilation

– NO air “fresheners”

– fragrance-free signs on door and mirrors

– fragrance-free, plant based hand soap

– fragrance-free, plant based cleaning products

– pesticide-free

– scent-free, biocide-free garbage bags

There may be a few other steps that can be taken, but these are critical


More resources


Environmental sensitivities are a disability recognized by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)

Fragranced consumer products:
exposures and effects from emissions. (full text)

… “Fragranced products also restrict access in society. Of the general population, 17.5 % were unable to use toilets in public places because of air fresheners or deodorizers, 14.1 % were unable to wash their hands with soap in public places because of fragranced soap, and 22.7 % were unable to go someplace because of the presence of a fragranced product.”

Overall, 34.7 % of the population reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to fragranced products.

18.6 % respiratory problems;
16.2 % mucosal symptoms;
15.7 % migraine headaches;
10.6 % skin problems;
8.0 % asthma attacks;
7.2 % neurological problems;
5.8 % cognitive problems;
5.5 % gastrointestinal problems;
4.4 % cardiovascular problems;
4.0 % immune system problems;
3.8 % musculoskeletal problems; and
1.7 % other.”


Ten questions concerning air fresheners
and indoor built environments

Air fresheners and indoor built environments: why air fresheners impair rather than improve indoor air quality, and pose health risks



Autism and effects from fragranced products.

“Among individuals with autism/ASDs, 83.7% report health problems when exposed to fragranced consumer products”…


Fragranced consumer products: effects on asthmatics

Among Americans with asthma/asthma-like conditions, 64.3% report health problems, such as breathing difficulties, when exposed to fragranced consumer products…


Help for How to Be Fragrance-Free
Includes accessible event planning resources

The Fragrance-free Checklist

How NOT to Do a Scent (or fragrance) Policy

When There’s No Accessible Potty


fragrance-free accessible restroom sign sample
includes image of a toiled and stick figure in a wheelchair


Be fragrance-free!
It’s good for you. It’s good for me.

10 responses to “How to Basics: Accessible Washrooms for People With MCS/ES

  1. Hi Linda, this info is so well put together, as are all of your post on this site. How are you with us/me sharing this info on our personal FB pages – citing, of course, where we got it from. I see there is a way to share the whole page on FB, but I think that the folks that I know will not read the whole page. I want to pick one short thing at a time, maybe each day and post it. How do you feel about that?

    • Thanks for asking Kathy.
      There isn’t that much info for people to read on the actual how to post, unless they want to learn more and explore the other links, so for basic washroom accessibility, sharing the whole post is best… Feel free to share any of the other links that are included separately.

  2. Toutes mes félicitations pour cet article. Du très beau travail. Merci.
    Congratulations on this article. Very nice work. Thank you.

  3. In Ontario:

    “inconvenience, morale, and preferences are not valid considerations in assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship”.

    The Code prescribes only three considerations when assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship:

    • cost
    • outside sources of funding, if any
    • health and safety requirements, if any.

    No other considerations can be properly taken into account under Ontario law.[239] Therefore, factors such as business inconvenience,[240] employee morale[241] and customer and third-party preferences[242] are not valid considerations in assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship. [243]

    To claim the undue hardship defence, the organization responsible for making the accommodation has the onus of proof.[244]

    It is not up to the person with a disability to prove that an accommodation can be accomplished without undue hardship.

    ~ Ontario Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability

  4. Thank you so very much for all the work you do to keep us informed!!! This post is timely for me. My workplace was supposed to be scent-free. About 3+ years ago I exercised my right under the Canada Labour Code Part II to refuse to work due to dangerous conditions in my workplace. Specifically, management had authorized and purchased a product that was labeled as scent free but was far from being non-toxic to me for use in our washroom, especially when it became aerated in the hot shower. They dug their heels in when I refused to work and things went from bad to worse. 2 years ago they tried to constructively fire me. It backfired on them and I’ve had a two year paid vacation while my skills have rotted away. Recently, there’s been movement toward resolving the issue and this infographic will come in very handy. I so greatly appreciate you right at the moment!

  5. I can’t help but think we could do away with a lot of these problems if the products were not available… period. We don’t need them clean can be had without toxicity. Would be so much easier for all of us to take away the choice to use a toxic chemical to do the job a non toxic solution could do just as well. So simple it seems insane it is not being done.

  6. We do we also have millions of people who are not working for them who have a say in what type of world we live and leave behind for our kids… can’t just give up… or can we.

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