As stories regarding disability often do, it starts with needing to use the loo. We are in a huge mall and we follow the signs to where we are promised will be toilets for 'disabled patrons'. When we get there we are confronted with three options provided for customers to pee, poo, or do double duty. There is the women's room, the men's room and then the disabled and family toilets. The only trouble is that the disabled toilets are locked and to gain access a sign tells us to either see an attendant or call a particular number and an attendant will be sent. I haven't figured out how to dial phone numbers here in the UK so, in desperation I ask a woman headed into the bathroom if she could help me and call someone so I could, let's just say, pee. She does. Someone will come.
Then a fellow comes along who is clearly the attendant so I ask him to unlock the door. He gets his key. I ask him why disabled people are locked out of the bathrooms. I don't understand why everyone else gets to just walk in but I have to make a phone call. I'm told that I could buy a key that would give me access all across the country. You lock disabled people out of bathrooms across the entire country? I ask. He says, You are not locked out of the bathroom.
And here gaslighting begins.
I am locked out of the bathroom.
No you are not.
There's the door, it's locked, I'm out here. I'm locked out.
No you are not locked out. You just need to ask an attendant.
There was no attendant, I had to call ... because I was locked out.
No you are not locked out, I am the attendant, I have the key..
But you weren't here.
I am here now.
So, back to my question why do you lock disabled people out of toilets?
He's frustrated now. YOU ARE NOT LOCKED OUT OF THE TOILET.
YES I AM. THE DOOR IS LOCKED.
I am here to open it for you.
But you weren't here when I needed it.
WE DO NOT LOCK THE DISABLED OUT OF TOILETS.
YES, YOU DO.
Here's the thing ... I still haven't gone pee.
I ask and he unlocks the door.
I go in and finish the job I had wanted to do.
I come out.
Just before leaving someone arrives.
She is waving a key in the air, Who called for an attendant.
It's so frustrating when people deny the experience of having a disability. I was to any observer around, clearly locked out of the bathroom, but I was consistently told that I was not. Later I was told that the toilets are locked, but not to keep me out, but to keep the non-disabled from using them. So, I was told, in effect it's non-disabled people who are locked out. But, I protest, I'm locked out too. A head shakes at what is deemed my inability to understand that I'm not locked out of loos all over the country.
We bought a key.