Public Bathrooms

I am a blind chick with a small bladder. Dr. Pepper and Starbucks Frappucino’s also provide me wonderful caffeination to get through my days.. but both of these glorious drinks are NOT good on the bladder. So when I have to go, I HAVE TO GO. How does blindness tie into that? If we are independently navigating a public place or a crowded place, it often takes us a lot longer to get to the bathroom. So by the time we are there, we are often desperate.

Have you ever looked at the size of a public bathroom stall? They are TINY when you think about trying to cram yourself, any bags or other items you have with you, AND a guide dog in there. For some larger dogs, it’s impossible. So when you really really have to go and there’s not an accessible stall open because somebody without a disability is using it, it can be incredibly frustrating. Do you try and fit your dog in the stall? Do you leave your dog right outside your stall and risk others petting, possibly feeding, or messing with your dog? Do you wait for the accessible stall (what sometimes feels like forever) so that you can fit your dog and you into one stall? Lots of decisions to think about all because somebody else is in that stall that might not need it and you have to GO PEE! And let’s face it, when you’re desperate, that’s all you might be thinking about.

Let me stop there and share this link with you. Please read this before continuing:

Prior to her writing this article, I had thought about this from time to time. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, yes, It is incredibly difficult to fit Makiko into a smaller stall and when I really have to use the restroom, it’s darn near impossible. I sometimes much rather just stay in one place and wait for the accessible stall as opposed to moving around and having Makiko move around in weird ways to fit in a small stall with some part of her body likely sticking out into one of the bordering stalls or out into the main restroom area. It is, also, by definition the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stall. This is why it is larger (to allow for people with different assistive and mobility devices to turn around and navigate), it sometimes has a different height toilet, has grab bars, etc. Have you ever noticed that most doors into accessible stalls open the opposite way? It is designed for people with disabilities. So when a person without a disability comes out of it, it has annoyed me from time to time (especially when I’m that desperate). This stall is not a changing room before you go to exercise. It is not a place to corral your children. When you use that stall when you can use any stall and disrupt the person with a disability’s ability to use that stall when they can ONLY use that stall, you are likely causing them to be very uncomfortable and taking away their right to equal access.

However, on the flip side.. 1) Somebody could potentially have an invisible disability and the ADA stall makes it easier for them and 2) I kind of understand if there is a long line of people waiting to use the restroom and the accessible stall is open, why wouldn’t you use it? I do get that.

In response to the young ladies’ blog post above, people have been pretty mean. They have mostly talked about how if they have a child it is easier to use that restroom. My response to that is, I get that it is EASIER for you, but that is the only option for many. Unfortunately, several bathroom designers have placed the changing table in the accessible stall (poor design) and at that point if the parent needed to change their child, they would have no choice. That is not their fault and I totally get that. That’s a necessity at that point but if you’re just looking to corral your kid, consider seeing if you could do that in a non-accessible stall, please. If your child is young and potty training, it might be a necessity for you to be with them and use that stall. I get that too. But please remember that these stalls were not made into a requirement by law many years ago for families. They were put into law for people with disabilities.

Again, I get it from both sides. I get the side that a lot of people with disabilities have held that it is their only option, the stall was designed for people with disabilities, and it is a medical necessity for many to use this restroom. However, I do get that if there is a long line of people and it is open, you might as well use it really fast and be done. I also get that some designers have poorly planned where they place the changing table and some can’t help but use that bathroom. I guess all I’m asking for is that individuals without disabilities use common sense. Before you go into that stall, please consider if there are others waiting around that appear to have disabilities or trouble moving around and might require that stall. If there are several stalls open, please consider using the non-accessible stall if you don’t really depend on it. It would make the world of difference to some if people who didn’t need that stall just made an effort not to use it. Some of us don’t have the opportunity to take using the stalls for granted. Some of us think about every time we have to go to the restroom, “Oh goodness.. will there be a stall available that we can use? That’s all I’m seeking – an effort to not use that stall if you don’t have to and an understanding about how it affects and bothers many people with disabilities when you do.


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Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

One thought on “Public Bathrooms”

  1. Before you judge others, try to remember that some disabilities are invisible. I used the accessible stall yesterday with my young daughter, who is disabled. It may have looked to an outsider like I was just trying to “corral my children,” but actually she needs to hold on to the railings because she can’t keep her balance by herself. This post, and all your posts about “phony” service dogs, really bothers me because you are assuming something you do not know–you are assuming the people are not disabled but you don’t know that. Don’t judge others. Please.

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