It can be difficult for transgender, intersex, or gender nonconforming people to find public restrooms they can use without feeling awkward, embarrassed, or even put in danger. Finding a bathroom in these situations can cause a lot of stress, but a new smartphone app can help.

REFUGE Restrooms is a free iPhone app that helps users find nearby restrooms that they can safely use. It began with an existing database of 4,500 restrooms collected by an older app, called Safe2Pee. When that app was discontinued, the REFUGE team stepped in to fill in the gap.

The app allows users to search for restrooms near an address, or to locate their position and show nearby restrooms that are gender neutral or otherwise safe spaces for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people to use. The results show users the location of the building housing the restroom and whether it has gender neutral or handicapped access (or both). It also allows users to rate or comment on the bathroom, and some include instructions for locating the restroom within the building.

Users can add new bathrooms, and are encouraged to do so, as the app is free and doesn’t necessarily have the funding to track down more locations without help. The REFUGE Restrooms website also asks users with coding experience to submit bug reports or even some code over on their GitHub site. The app is open-source, so anyone can contribute, which is essential in keeping it an open and useful app. In the future, they play to establish a crowd funding campaign to help support the app and provide some compensation to the designers and engineers who made the app possible.

The only real downside of the app is that it requires iOS 8 to run, which leaves users with older iPhones incapable of downloading it.

REFUGE Restrooms is a great idea that will certainly prove helpful to its users. The battle for transgender rights is ongoing, and restrooms are frequently the site of that battle, as citizens, legislators, and business owners clash over who can be allowed to use which restroom.

About 

Martin Ackerman is a freelance writer and current editor originally from Staten Island, NY. His university schooling focused on English education and Japanese. He has a (not so secret) passion for art history and political science. When he isn't writing or editing you can find him at sci-tech conventions, building the latest LEGO city or pampering his cat, Tea. You can follow him on Twitter @MarMackerman.