Since I began using my wheelchair for the majority of my out of the house outings two years ago, I have learned that just because a restroom is labeled Handicap Accessible it doesn’t mean that it really is. Sure it may have a stall that has enough space for a wheelchair and a caregiver to accompany the person, but that is not enough!
The first part of the restroom battle is getting in. The majority of restrooms don’t have enough space for me to position my wheelchair in a way where I can reach to swing the restroom door open. Many are located on the tip of a ramp. Without having someone to assist me it is impossible to open these doors without rolling down the ramps backwards. Lock my brakes you say….. That also involves parking myself on the ramp at an angle that makes reaching the door and hoping that I can swing it wide enough to give myself time to unlock my brakes and enter the doorway before the door shuts extremely difficult. Then there are those that are not located on a ramp, but instead located in a narrow hallway. This causes me to block traffic to the able bodied and create an unnecessary struggle when trying to swing open the door or it forces me to inch my way in because lack of space makes turning impossible. Both of these situations have left me with many bruises on my arms, legs, and feet. Sadly the battle doesn’t stop there. One thing I really wish our government and everyone wanting to accommodate the handicapped would realize is that a handicapped stall is useless if the person is unable to enter the restroom.
Once inside the battle of the stalls begins. It is my opinion that all handicapped stalls should have enough space for the handicapped person, their wheelchair, and a caretaker if needed. Not just room for them to each be in there, but to be able to move around! The following are the three types of handicapped stalls that I have encountered and how I feel about each.
The first is the most common one that I have come across, it is wider than the average stall, but not longer. This makes it difficult for someone using a wheelchair, unless they are unable to stand and they need their wheelchair to be close enough to slide on to the toilet. Yet I don’t see how this is even possible. When I roll into one of these stalls, my legs end up around the toilet and I have no space or strength to twist and turn. These stalls are great for the disabled that are on foot and/or using a walker. It gives them the space needed along with the safety features like bars to assist them.
The second type of stall that I am thankfully seeing more of, are the stalls that have ample space not just for the disabled person, but also their wheelchair and caretaker, they also provide the space needed for both people to be able to move about without elbowing each other in the eye!! It is degrading and humiliating to be rubbing elbows with my assistants while using the toilet. Having space to move freely allows my caregivers to turn their backs and to stand away from me so I can have some “privacy”. I will wait for this stall over the first, because let’s face it, I deal with enough pain and going to the toilet should not be something that causes more!
Last but not least is my dream stall. This is the mother of all handicapped stalls and the type I hope and pray to see in all restrooms someday. While at Disneyland last week, I ventured into a restroom that I had never been in before. Well friends, let me tell you this stall was so fabulous, that I don’t care how silly I sound by saying it was the highlight of my day!!! This particular restroom was easy to enter despite the narrow sidewalk leading up to it. There isn’t a door, just a nice wide entrance to roll into. Once inside I rolled back to the handicapped stall and was blown away but what I discovered. This stall not only had more than enough space for me, my wheelchair, and my daughter who was assisting me, but it also had its own mirror, sink, and towel dispenser!!!!!! I thought I had died and gone to potty heaven!!!!!! BTW this restroom is located in the Thunder Ranch area of Disneyland. It is back near the barn in the dining area.
The reason that the third is my ideal stall is this: When you are in a wheelchair and using a restroom that is filled with people washing their hands and primping in the mirrors it becomes difficult to access these stations yourself. Especially when the mirrors are located in a narrow walkway. I would feel terrible about blocking the walkway just because I wanted to touch up my make-up or hair. Because trying to get to a sink and towel dispenser can be so difficult I usually just end up using the hand sanitizer that I always keep in my bag.
Now that I have shared my thoughts regarding restrooms, what are yours? Which store, business, building, etc., has the best stall and access to it in your opinion? Who has the worst? Some of the worst restrooms I have come across are located at my church and most restaurants. Although Disneyland has one restroom with what I feel is the ultimate in handicapped stalls, they also have some that are so bad that I avoid them. These are ones that don’t provide the space needed to enter without injury to me or someone else or are so small that there is no way to get past and reach my stall when there is one or two people at the sink.
It is my wish that those who make the decisions about what is considered accessible, take a good look at what it really is like to have to use a handicapped restroom and stall!!
Hope you have a day filled with smiles and adequate restroom access!
The Disabled Diva