Let’s talk about Toilets. Yep, Let’s talk about accessible toilets, the varied needs of the disability community, and how we deal with each other in the face of limited resources.
I got a little excited seeing the above photo in a Tumblr post because I have been thinking about ‘invisible disabilities’ and accessible toilets a lot lately. The sign is amazing and it’s heartening to see progress in a tangible form, even if it’s one sign on one public bathroom door. Accessibility needs vary widely and anything we can do to acknowledge that and counter the assumption of able-bodied people about what disability looks like is a good thing.
That said, the post about this sign brought up some interesting discussion about limited resources, varied accessibility needs, and how we as a community deal with these realities and each other.
Heres the Discussion:
I am not in a wheelchair. I use a cane when I need it, and some days it causes more problems than it helps, so I don’t use it. Of course, I agree, if you don’t need an accessibility resource, then please don’t use it. I am very conscious of this when parking when using the toilet, and in all situations where accessibility is offered. The thing is? Just because I’m not in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I don’t need it.
For example, the reason this has been on my mind is that I’ve been having trouble with the one leg I can feel. The knee pain and leg weakness have been beyond words, and I’ve found going to the bathroom in a public bathroom burdensome. I need to hold myself up. I require assistance making myself upright. I also have issues with frequent urination, common in people with multiple sclerosis. This isn’t a new problem nor does it go away, even on my best days, but certain days are much worse than other days. It’s relative. The reality is, without it, I’d have been face down on a dirty rest stop floor, ass in the air, at 1 am last week.
So no, I don’t use the disability stall if I feel I can do ok without it. I am aware of varied requirements of all kinds of disabilities and respect that we are all dealing with limited resources. At the same time, I no longer let the judgment of able folks or the assumptions of other disabled folks, stop me from using a resource I need because I do not meet the standards they’ve set for a 10-second bathroom assessment.
I completely feel you @stubborn-snoots the feeling of judgment from a fellow disabled person hurts a little more than that of an able bodied person. I also understand @smolbendyburrito that being in a wheelchair you often encounter people using resources that you need just because and you have no choice but to wait for that person before you can use them and I do understand how that can end.
It’s tough, and there’s no way to make it less difficult. Wheelchair users don’t know if we’re just an able bodied person misusing a resource and those of us with invisible disabilities don’t walk around wearing t-shirts with our reasons for needing the accessible toilet. The one thing we can do try to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I don’t look at a wheelchair user and assume anything about their condition/reason for being in them, etc. I hope I get the same in return.
It isn’t a competition even though it often feels like one. We cannot judge needs in the 20 minutes we spend near each other in a public bathroom. So, in my humble opinion, we should celebrate the sign, celebrate that we are broadening the public’s understanding of disability and try to support each other the best we can. Respect the reality of our differing needs and do our best to respect them when circumstances call for it, assuming the best not the worst of each other. We are, in truth, one community fighting for accessibility for everyone. Judging who needs what when is distracting us from what the real focus here, accessibility for all.
Maybe this sounds like blowing smoke but Its the only way I can find to deal with this. There is no point in fighting. The only good thing that can come out of this debate is acknowledging both of our points and committing to respecting the realities of all our situations. In the end, without an accessible toilet, we’d all be face down on the floor of a toilet stall, ass in the air, unable to get back up, sitting in pools of our own urine or feces, or having massive panic attacks unable to exit the stall at all. So, I think we can all celebrate the ADA by assuming less and fighting for more.
Those are my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.