Rolling Without Limits

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The Public Bathroom Wars
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The Public Bathroom Wars

More than once, I have gone to the public bathroom in grocery stores and walked into an ugly fight over the handicapped stall. The person with the wheelchair, motor cart, or walker thinks that their stall has been stolen by ambulatory people who can use another stall.

About a month ago, one of these episodes happened right after I held the door open in the woman's bathroom for a lady who was on a motor cart. She thanked me. Then as she powered into the bathroom, she became increasingly upset at what looked like an ambulatory family to her. They were in the handicapped stall. She cussed them out bigtime! A woman with three very young daughters walked out of there very upset. The woman did apologize to her and said that because her kids are young and need help that they don't fit in the regular stalls, so she uses the handicapped one. She then went on to say that when she sees a handicap person in there, she instructs her daughters to wait and let them use it first. The woman with the cart then said: "I didn't have a stroke to lose use of both legs and become incontenant for people like you who are never going to understand this until it happens to you. You are raising your daughters the wrong way. That stall is for us. It's not for you!" The women said to her "I put handicap people first, but you're mean because you are bitter."

One of the courtesy booth managers was in the ladies room when this took placel. Neither of us said anything. So I wonder what she was thinking. Not one of us wanted to escalate things.

There are two languages and points of view here. Many ambulatury people think that they can use the handicapped stall because they need the space. And they believe that if a handicapped person approaches the bathroom at the same time, they will let them use the stall first. They think that they are justified in this way of thinking. Whats wrong with this picture, is that they are not seeing the whole picture. In most cases, they aren't looking at the other side at all. The person with the wheelchair or other metal devices for their disability, such as a walker take space, plus many steps of manuerving to get around in them. In a lot of cases where incontinence is involved, this makes things even more challenging for them. That's why the handicapped stalls are sized, measured, fitted, and railed for those with manuerving challenges. When you do not need a walker or a wheelchair to get around, please save these stalls for those who do.

All votes, questions and comments are welcome.

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  1. Matthew Tilford
    Matthew Tilford
    As a wheelchair user its frustrating when I go to the rest room and a man is in the only handicapped stall reading his paper doing his after lunch business. 3 stalls are completely open but now I have to wait 15 minutes because hes not done reading the sunday football scores in the sports page. These people have never experienced being around a disabled person so its out of sight out of mind mentality. The only way to educate a person on disabled edict is if they personally go through some time of injury or a close family member does. I roll up to the stall to make my self noticed and most the time people hurry out of the bathroom with an embarrassed look on their face. I in no way want to be a grumpy disabled man so I usually remind them what the stall is intended for and give them plenty of reason why I need the stall. I believe being polite in this situation is the best way to go. There is no need to be upset and angry because it will set your mood for the remainder of the day. I recently was given a piece of advice about raising my kids that I am using in many ways now. "expect them to break the rules so that you aren't angry when it happens." KIds break rules because they are still learning. people who have never had a disability are ignorant to these rules.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      I agree. Not all disabilities are physical. I'm sensitive to others' needs. So I'm hoping as an ambulatory writer that more people will listen to this as well.
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  2. Daniel Andrei Garcia
    Daniel Andrei Garcia
    Vote #3 "The person with the wheelchair or other metal divices for their disability, like a walker, take space plus many steps of maneuvering to get around in them. In a lot of cases where incontinence can also be involved, makes this even more challenging for them." Sadly, many people realize this only when they get on a wheelchair or have family that do.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      True. I have both family and friends who are with wheel chairs and walkers. Some of those friends and I are members of the same organizations. That's how we met.
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  3. Teresa Thomas
    Teresa Thomas
    Hi there. Wow! This is a really good post there. So far, I don't ever think, that I had encountered this problem before. I would let them use the stall first since it is for them in the first place. Nice job. Vote #4.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      Thank you Teresa and thank you everyone for your votes.
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  4. Susan Keeping
    Susan Keeping
    I use handicapped stalls because I need to pull myself up off the toilet. There is no bar in the others and they are often lower to the ground. I do not have a walker or a wheelchair, but I need to use that toilet. Don't assume just because a person can walk that they have no physical disabilities.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      That's also true. Thank you for voting.
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      1. sweedly
        sweedly
        I like Susan use the handicapped stalls because of the bars that help you get up again. Also because the toilet is higher than the other ones making it easier for me to sit and then get up again. I have never had a problem with preventing someone in a wheelchair from using the stall, but I have helped several such people into the stalls and fetched toilet paper for them when the rolls were empty.
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        1. pftsusan
          pftsusan
          Thank you for the vote. I think it is important to keep the lines of communication open as you do and offer a helping hand.
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  5. Broken English
    Broken English
    Voted. You certainly make very valid points in this blog, that everyone should be aware of. It is something I discovered myself, when I became disabled for a time. I have written about this in my first blog for this site, Take These Broken Wings and Learn to Fly Again.... Please check it out and vote if you like it. (I am Veganara from TFV, by the way!!)
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      Great to hear from you and thank you for voting. I'm going to take a look at your blog, right now. For me, from being on SSD,being a part of the system, member of groups whers people are differently abled, family and friends living and diseased with challenges, being in the fitness industry, a former social worker, I see and take in a lot what the wants and the needs are. For example, most people don't know that most public gyms are not handicapped accessible other then they have just the handicapped bathrooms.
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  6. melsgirl92
    I appreciate your point of view, but people with mobility challenges are not the only ones those stalls are designed for. While they are marked as wheelchair accessible, they are made available for people with a wide variety of disabilities not only those with wheelchairs, walkers, and scotters. I am the mother of 3 sons. My oldest happens to be disabled. When he was younger, he was able to walk fairly well without the use of crutches or a walker, but he tired quickly so we frequently used a stroller instead. He has bladder issues that dictate the use of a catheter. For many years, we had to help him with this process. There were many, many times, when I had to take the wheelchair with one or both of my other children in it, park it inside the handicap stall facing the door, and assist my disabled son with his bathroom needs without leaving my other two standing out in the restroom by themselves for 15 mins. Because not everyone who is disabled, looks disabled, there have been many times that I have been cussed out by impatient people both disabled and non who assume that because they can't see a disability they have a right to tell me my son can't use a handicap stall or we can't park in a handicap parking spot. Even now that he's a teenager and uses crutches, when people see us, a young family, park in a handicap parking spot, they think it's their duty to tell us we can't park there, until they see him get out of the car. Just remember, things aren't always what they seem. Patience and tollerance is needed on both sides of the spectrum.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      Thank you for voting. And I agree with you.
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  7. Carolyn
    Congrats Susan! A great article! There are still many public facilities, mostly in older buildings that still do not have wheelchair accessible stalls.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      Thank you for the vote. For the older buildings: That's because they are protected by the grandfather laws.
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