Huron County accessibility crusader tackles bathrooms

Julie Sawchuk has become somewhat of an accessible bathroom 'crusader.'

“Building better bathrooms, that is kind of my thing,” says the Blyth mother of two.

Since losing the use of her legs, after being hit by passing motorist while cycling near Goderich in 2015, Julie Sawchuk has been tackling the sometimes uncomfortable world of bathroom accessibility.

During Accessibility Week, she toured an accessible, universal bathroom, she helped design, at the newest addition to Blyth’s Main Street, Sweets N Treats.

“It’s all the little things that make you go, oh yeah right, I never thought of it that way,” says Sawchuk.

Things like the placement of the emergency button, typical in public facilities.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve actually been on the bathroom floor, and haven’t been able to reach the emergency call button. That’s just one of those things that people don’t understand the actual need for,” she says. Or having an open toilet paper roll.

“For someone that has limited dexterity in their fingers, they can’t actually grip the toilet paper. So, when you can see it and it’s on an open roll, you know exactly it is, giving you a greater opportunity to actually get a hold of the toilet paper,” she says.

The owners of the renovated building and bathroom, Colleen Jordan and Shane Yerema, were happy to work with Sawchuk, to make their new building as accessible as possible.

“You can have beauty and accessibility, as well. It doesn’t have to look institutional, it can be functional and beautiful,” says Jordan.

Sawchuk isn’t just helping Huron County businesses become more accessible, she’s currently working with Dyson on hand dryers.

“They’re whole hand dryer team is really keen on making their hand dryers accessible, and installed in accessible locations,” she says.

You can check out “the gold standard” in accessible bathrooms, as Sawchuk calls it, when Sweets N Treats opens in Blyth on June 19.

You can learn more about Sawchuk and her latest book, Building Better Bathrooms.