Pee in Peace – A Social Justice Resource for Ithaca, New York

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Pee in Peace is an app that shows gender neutral and single stall restrooms in Ithaca, New York. The app is designed to help trans* and gender non-conforming people find the nearest of these restrooms. It also provides directions to help the user get to the restroom as quickly as possible. Pee in Peace is developed by Out For Health  a project of the Southern Finger Lakes’ Planned Parenthood. 

Finding restrooms that are safe to use is a serious issue for trans* people. The info page on the app cites a survey “conducted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission [which] found that nearly 50% of respondents reported having been harassed or assaulted in a public bathroom” (Out for Health, 2012). The app was developed to help alleviate this problem. The info page states the mission of the app as “working toward removing the barriers to accessing safe bathrooms” (Out for Health, 2012).

This approach fits well with Amartya Sen’s approach to social justice which focuses on agency (Sen, 1999, as cited in Light and Luckin, 2008). Sen’s approach is that justice “requires us to enable people to engage in the activities necessary to achieve what they want, rather than to give them what they want” (Light and Luckin, 2008). The app developer has created a tool to give people the ability to find the resource (in this case gender neutral restrooms) that they need. The app is empowering.

The app also fits with David Miller’s approach to social justice which is based on “what people deserve, what they need, and equality” (Miller 1999, as cited in Light and Luckin, 2008). The app asserts that trans* people need to be able to safely use public restrooms. They also deserve this as a basic human right. Finally, by providing a resource to help trans* people achieve this the app brings trans* people closer to equality.

I could not find information about the design process of the app, but what is clear from the app itself is that the app was based upon research to address a problem in the trans* community. It seems that the app would fall somewhere on the spectrum of “user-centered” in the context of it clearly being based on research about its target user-base, despite it being unclear how it was tested or if it included “participatory design” (Light and Luckin, 2008).

The app does not have a log in function and as such avoids privacy concerns that could arise from users having to identify themselves. In the process it sacrifices the potential to create a supportive community. Sometimes an openness to “making information public can have positive supportive social effects” (Jarvis, 2010, as cited in Marwick, 2012).  In this case that would refer to the identity of the user, possibly as a trans* person. While a social element to the app could provide support and a sense of community among users (Marwick, 2012), it is likely that this was decided against in sensitivity to the particular concerns of trans* people. Due to the discrimination and violence that many trans* people face, they may not wish to identify themselves as users of the app as many apps force users to do by either creating an account or linking themselves to an existing social media account.

I tested the app with many of the iPhone accessibility features. The app is compatible with inverted colors, grayscale and zoom. The app was not compatible with larger text on the landing page (as it image based) or on the other pages of the app (the map was an exception). The app was less compatible with voice over (reads elements that are tapped) and speak screen (reads the entire screen).

Soederquist’s “best web practice” (a set of guidelines for making web and cites “alt attributes” as an important element of making a web page or app compatible with screen readers. An alt attribute is text that the screen reader can read out in place of an image (Soederquist, 2012). The app lacks alt attributes as the voiceover function simply reads out “button” and speak screen cannot read the landing page at all. If the app had alt tags for the image that is attached to the button it would be readable by the screen reader.

Additionally the colors of the app may be problematic to those with poor vision as yellow and white (the main colors used) do not have a lot of contrast. Overall this app could be hard to use for people with poor or no vision.

The Pee in Peace app provides an important support to members of the trans* community in Ithaca, but it’s accessibility issues do take away from it’s social justice impact. Social justice is an idea intended for all members of society. I would maintain that social justice must strive to include disabled people in order to be successful in its mission for equality despite the complications and difficulties that may arise. This is something that the app could improve on in its goal of promoting social justice.

Works Cited

ancientwisdompro. (2012, January 31). Pee in Peace iPhone App [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcklKrkg1SM

Kaman, M. (Creator). (2015). [Website Screenshot], Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http:/www.peeinpeace.org/

Light, Ann and Rosemary Luckin. (2008). “Designing for Social Justice: People, Technology and Learning.” Report for Futurelab.

Marwick, Alice. (2012). “Public Domain: Surveillance in everyday life.” Surveillance & Society. 9(4): 378-393.

Out For Health. (2009). Retrieved March 4, 2015, from http://www.outforhealth.org/

Out for Health (2012). Pee in Peace (1.0) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pee-in-peace/id491038670?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Pee in Peace. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2015, from http://www.peeinpeace.org/

Soederquist. (2012). “Why mobile Web accessibility matters- best practices to make your mobile site accessible” from mobiForge.

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One thought on “Pee in Peace – A Social Justice Resource for Ithaca, New York

  1. This was a really interesting app to read about, I’ve seen anything like it! I like how you structured your essay, specifically how you included a video demonstration of the app right after the introduction. I thought it was good that you included statistics about harassment in public bathrooms, which gives more background about the social justice problem that the app is trying to solve. You referenced several different course readings, and did a great job at integrating them throughout your essay, making your writing a lot stronger. Overall, your writing is great and I enjoyed reading about this app!

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