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Around 14% of college menstruating people in the US have experienced period poverty in the past year[^1]. Period poverty is limited access to sanitary products and spaces. For example, at a campus with over 30K undergraduates[^2], with an estimated half to be menstruating, that could be over 4,500 undergraduate students at University of Washington without access to pads, tampons, and cups to manage their periods, or access to toilets, sanitation, and hygiene education.

Although the UW free menstrual product program seeks to combat this issue, its web page contains a tabled list of over 150 locations across campus. This is inaccessible and unintuitive. Our goal is to ensure that anywhere on campus, menstruating people can search up the closest free menstrual products to them and get there in an accessible way. We provide a filter for the user to select buildings with an ADA accessible restroom and/or all gender restroom. With the latter, we acknowledge that not all menstruators are women, and not all women menstruate.

In the absence of an accessible map showing different restrooms offering free menstrual products on campus, we decided to create our own website! Users can enter their current location, and we provide them with the 5 nearest buildings on the UW campus that have restrooms with free menstrual products as well as directions to get there. In order to get directions, we use the Taskar Center’s AccessMap which shows accessible routes in Seattle and is accessible, user tested and data driven. We also provide a filtering option so that users can see which restrooms are ADA accessible and/or gender-neutral, and a way to set preferences to pass to AccessMap.

Related Work

The University of Washington provides a public Accessibility Map, with annotations for assisted entrances, elevators, and routes without stairs, among other features. However, the map does not have route-finding functionality, and focuses on sighted users with mobility access needs. Users can display their current location as a blue dot and zoom in and out, but the only clear way to interact with the map is by clicking on the buttons (which were difficult to reach through manual testing). This visually-based interface, combined with the lack of image descriptions, is difficult for blind or visually impaired users to navigate. Additionally, some buildings are more recent, such as Population Health, and have yet to be updated. The data behind the map is not publicly available and requires specific configurations to run ArcGIS.

Another work is the Taskar Center’s AccessMap, a map which uses crowdsourced data and offers route-finding, including on the UW campus. AccessMap is quite detailed and is screen reader-friendly. Users can filter paths to be within a certain grade of flatness, and the UW map also includes features like benches as well as landmarks to help with navigation. However, AccessMap does not include facilities information. While this can be found on the UW website, the format is difficult to navigate with a screen reader and can be time-consuming to users who are not familiar with the campus.


Our project consists of an accessible user interface which links to AccessMap. Our initial idea was to design and implement an accessible map ourselves that calculated the closest building with free menstrual products from a given location. We also deliberated on providing text based directions more accessible to screen readers. However, we finally decided upon incorporating AccessMap, as it was a user-tested, data-driven and widely available accessible map. We designed filters for ADA accessible and all gender restrooms for intersectionality, since the Free Menstrual Product Program website gave this information in a more difficult-to-find manner. Overall, we designed a simple, user-friendly interface with a search box for a start location, filters for restroom preferences and AccessMap preferences, and a button to display externally linked directions (in AccessMap) to the 5 closest buildings with restrooms satisfying their preferences.

The project was primarily implemented in JavaScript as a React app. We used React to handle the state for form selections (for example, checking the “all-gender” box) and to respond to user input (for example, displaying direction links on button press). We used a SearchBox React component from MapBox, an online map provider, for the location search box. We used pandas, a Python library for data processing, to read the HTML table on the Free Menstrual Product Program webpage, summarize the restroom data, and save the data as a JSON file. We found coordinates for each building included on this webpage, a process called “geocoding,” by using the OpenStreetMap Nominatim API. We manually entered coordinates for buildings that didn’t have data with OpenStreetMap. We used the MapBox Directions API to calculate the distance between the user’s start location and all buildings with restrooms satisfying user preferences, in order to find the nearest relevant buildings.

Though we did not test our product with users with disabilities, we based our project goal off of first person accounts who brought to our attention how inaccessible UW maps and access guides are. For example, user orionmerlin on the r/udub Reddit page commented that they wish the university would “at least… create a map of campus that specifically denotes where every single damn staircase is, and alternate route planning tools”, and that UW’s provided Access Guide is “not the most understandable or useful, kind of information overload with literally every route visible at the same time.” We combined a need for free menstrual products with a first-person account informed need for accessible directions to the closest building providing them.

Disability Justice Perspective

Our idea addresses intersectionality; we design for users whose multiple identities mean that they menstruate, have access needs, and/or prefer to use all-gender restrooms. By allowing the user to filter buildings that have free menstrual products by whether those restrooms are ADA accessible and/or gender-neutral, we acknowledge that these needs are not exclusive of each other. We address cross-movement solidarity by developing a product that addresses both menstrual equity and accessibility.

Learnings and future work


Our main learning from this project is the value of using pre-existing technology and data. For example, we originally planned to display a map and directions to buildings with restrooms containing free menstrual products directly on our webpage. However, based on the suggestion of one of the course instructors, we decided to link to directions on AccessMap instead. Since displaying directions to a location is a solved problem, it made more sense to focus on the novel part of our project: surfacing UW’s free menstrual product data in a more usable format. Re-using an existing solution also had accessibility benefits. The AccessMap creators have worked extensively on making the AccessMap web app accessible to a variety of users. Had we re-implemented AccessMap functionality in four weeks, we would have created a less robust user experience.

Future work

The free menstrual product page includes room numbers for restrooms that include free menstrual products, but we only display building names, not room numbers. We made this decision because many restroom entrances do not display room numbers. However, some information (such as floor) can still be derived from these room numbers, so we could surface this information to users in the future. A more ambitious improvement (and itself a separate project) would be to use floor plans from UW building records to give within-building directions to restrooms.

A crowdsourced data collection project could provide data on where free menstrual products are located within each restroom and whether they are in stock. Currently, the closest location shown on the app may have run out of free menstrual products, leading to user frustration.

How we made it accessible

We made our web app accessible by linking to AccessMap for navigation, which already has built-in accessibility features such as screen reader support and accessible route-finding.

Like AccessMap, we used MapBox to implement some mapping features such as geocoding (converting from building names to geolocation coordinates, or latitude and longitude). We noticed MapBox’s SearchBox was somewhat brittle, but there were no major accessibility violations. We also added headings and form input labels to the website, as well as descriptive link text.

To validate PadMap’s accessibility, we conducted automated testing using WAVE’s web accessibility checker browser extension, as well as manual testing with the screen readers Apple VoiceOver and JAWS for the following four tasks:

  1. Find the nearest restroom with free menstrual products.

  2. Find the nearest ADA accessible restroom.

  3. Find the nearest all-gender restroom with free menstrual products.

  4. Find the nearest accessible all-gender restroom with free menstrual products

We were able to complete these tasks with both keyboard input only and with a screen reader, for four start locations on campus. All results appeared reasonable.


[^1]Reeve-Parker, N. (2023, September 6). Breaking the cycle of period poverty to achieve menstrual equity - UW Combined Fund Drive. UW Combined Fund Drive.

[^2]Fast Facts (HTML version). (n.d.). Office of Planning & Budgeting.