Friday, June 08, 2012

Toilet Time

Today I'm writing about toilets.

It's a secret that I don't want to let out but we, disabled people, can be a little obsessed about toilets. Sitting outside a long line of toilets, empty, the only accessible one being used by someone sitting on the toilet texting or talking. Trying to use an accessible toilet before taking a flight and having it almost always being used by someone who works at the airport, relaxing in there while on break. Coming into an accessible stall and finding the seat completely covered by someone's urine. Once, at a movie theatre, the toilet seat was covered in blood. Toilets are a bit deal.

As I speak in a lot of convention centers or a lot of hotels, I have 'toilet' experiences a lot. Joe hates it when I have to go to the toilet. He has to come with me, wait with me, with men coming in and out, often looking at us oddly as if they can't see the guy in the wheelchair sitting outside the wheelchair stall and figure out why I'm waiting. I need Joe there because I won't leave my wheelchair unattended. Long time readers will remember when I had my wheelchair stolen from the door of an airplane - I don't trust anyone anymore when it comes to my chair. I want him to stand guard or I am simply to anxious to ... well, that may be too much information.



People who would never park in a disabled parking space have no problem in parking their butt on a toilet in an accessible stall and doing a crossword, making a call, reading a paper, and, surprisingly common, sneaking a smoke. The movie theatre I often go to has 9 stalls for regular folk and 1 for people with disabilities. Mine is always full, the others always empty. Go figure.

But I didn't write this to complain.

The last few days I've been doing a series of classes on dealing with problem behaviour (by the way for readers in the Toronto Area, I'm doing this again this summer for YSBMS in Barrie ... my tenth, and last, Behaviour Summer School for them. So if you want to come this summer call Patty at 705-728-9143). Anyways, after that little advert, at breaks I head out to the accessible washroom, blue badge guy and all on the door, and it's never once been taken. All of those in the class, and all of those in the church, walk a little further down and go to the washrooms provided for y'all.

How nice.

It's not nice because I feel special and I get to go to the washroom without waiting, though that is nice, it's nice because people are leaving it free for the purpose it was designed for. Architects and building planners can only provide the space, people have to use it properly. I have to say that this is the first time, ever, I've been in a building with lots of people in it and the accessible washroom is used only by those who need it - all others go to the regular spot.

How nice.

It's weird to write a whole blog about a toilet.

It's even weirder to feel really grateful that I don't have to sit outside a stall waiting for someone to think of a seven letter word for 'jerk,' or text a message to a friend about cancelling an activity because it's pissing down rain.


Anonymous said...

Great post!
I sometimes use the disability toilet because of my water pills and I have to go desperatly.
Last time at a concert there was a second door to the toilet and the cleaning woman would look into the toilet who was going to use it.

After a short call to her about my medication and the offer to show her my operation-scar I was friendly granted the use of this toilet otherwise I would have peed my pants.

But good to know that someone looked that it was used only by the people it is meant to be used.


Heidi said...

I hear what you are saying schools, accessible loos are often viewed as something strange and other and non-disabled youngsters wouldn't be seen dead in them...A couple of years ago, one young man I work with commented after overhearing somone say "I'm not going in THERE!" when hurrying to the loos (pointing to the accessible toilet)..."do they think they'll catch something if they go in there...It's just a toilet for gods sake!" A conversation with a couple of his friends meant they sometimes now use one of the 4 accessible loos around the site, and they use them with a bit of an air of defiance...not against any (interestingly, unspoken) rule of non-disabled pupils shouldn't use these loos, but in a "we don't mind using these, what's the problem?" kind of way. 'Seems to work in this situation...what do others think?

Tamara said...

In our office the accessible washroom was frequently used by a co-worker for breast-pumping. :-)

Louise said...

Hmmmm. There's often a very long queue at the ladies toilet. If the accessible toilet is free and no sign of anyone arriving to use it, I'll use it. Not to text, read or smoke. Just use it, in the normal way, assuming that any disabled person arriving once I'm inside will wait only moments.
Dave and others, do you think this is wrong?

Anonymous said...

Dave - you are not alone with the "fixation" around the toilet - special needs toilet that is. I'm in the club. It grates me something fierce when someone walks out - young and carefree - phone in hand - when I am "dying" waiting.

Yet I know a lot of women with children like the space so they can keep their eyes on the kids. I applaud places that offer family bathrooms for that very reason.

It is maddening that builders do the minimum code - the least they can do - to provide specially equipped washrooms for those that need them. As our population ages - there are more and more people that need help.

You are not far off with the cleanliness either. Since the larger stalls are also used as break rooms (which is gross by the way) they seem to be more than disgusting.

Sometimes I wish that the stalls could only be opened by those that have a disability pass - like those for the car for the parking stalls. That would weed out some of the "pretenders".

Dave Hingsburger said...

Louise, personally, I have no objection to the accessibility stall being used when all the others are taken. I figure that then, it's the only one accessible to you. My complaint is using it when all the others are free, or, really, even one other. But that's my take. I am not ridgid about the toilet, it mostly gets me when people camp in there knowing I'm outside waiting. I say to Joe, 'I'll wait till this one is free so I can get in with my wheelchair' and then hear someone turn the page on a newspaper.

Utter Randomness said...

Anonymous, this "pretenders" rhetoric is really detrimental to the access for people with invisible disabilities. I know that there are fakers out there, but comments like that lead to vigilantism in the form of verbal abuse. I even know of a young man with an invisible disability who was punched for asking for a seat on the bus. You do not know who does and does not need accessible stalls. They are not just for wheelchair users, they are for everyone who needs them, including people who need the grab bars to stand up. Those people may look like "fakers" and they get a lot of abuse for it. It creates a hierarchy of disability and frankly, it sucks.

That being said, there is no reason for anyone to be using any bathroom stall, but especially the accessible stall, for anything other than doing their
business. I always try to be quick when I have to use the accessible stall.

On the question of schools, I was always under the impression, reinforced by the need for a special key, that the accessible bathrooms were off-limits.

Colleen said...

If our society promoted universal design this would be a non-issue. Unfortunately we are a long way from universal design. I am one of those people who has an invisible need to use the accessible stall and I feel guilty every time!

Liz Miller said...

For quite a while at my old job after my son was born, the only place I could pump was the accessible stall. It was the only available private spot close enough to the electrical socket. And I always felt guilty and angry about it.

Eventually, I got permission to use my boss's office, then an empty conference room, and finally a supply closet with a locking door.

Kristine said...

I'm enjoying the top two headlines when I open your blog now, because my brain connects them: "toilet time: throne of shame." :)

Princeton Posse said...

LOL, That's what I was thinking Kristine, great follow-up Dave!

dave said...

I would love to say the titled were cleverly chosen ... But it was chance. Thanks for noticing and giving me a laugh.

Utter Randomness said...

Colleen, I often feel guilty as well, but that fades when I get a glare from mothers with children. They seem particularly angry when they see me waiting for the stall. *shrugs*

Universal design would be an excellent step in the right direction, but I can see it being a fight every step of the way :(. I hope it becomes a reality in the future.

Mary said...

I think part of the toilet obsession might be because the "accessible" ones are so rarely everything they are supposed to be - it's annoying when they're not and actually exciting when they are!

I've never seen a non-disabled person in my twitter feed saying "OMG! Went to the ladies and it was clean and safe to use!" because nine times out of ten the ladies' loo will meet the requirements of the lady using it without a fuss (I wouldn't know about the gents). Whereas nine times out of ten, I will find myself having to deal with *something* - untangling the emergency alarm cord from around the bars, or manoeuvring around a nappy-change bin, or physically moving whatever random crap is being kept in the transfer space, or drying my hands on my jeans because I can't reach the sink and the hand dryer from the same position and I don't want to move my power assisted chair with wet hands, not to mention minor irritations like no mirror, and having to ask at the bar for a key (which always feels like asking permission to go pee) when my non-disabled counterparts don't have to.

wheeliecrone said...

How many non-disabled people have to involve strangers in their toileting? Not many, I would guess.
I, on the other hand, must very often ask strangers to open a toilet door for me, or close it after me.
And how about those large office buildings where the only accessible toilet is in the basement and the key is held by a security guard and so you have to hunt him down and he has to open the door for you?
And how about those large buildings that have no accessible toilet at all?
And how about...? But any wheelchair user could just go on and on about toilet adventures they have had out in the world.

Louise said...

While we're talking about toilets....! In the UK we now have some great toilets for those who need a changing table and hoist: They're not yet in every city, but there are more and more, and it means a whole day out for some people (like my foster son) who could never have such a thing before because of the need to return home for the bathroom.

Utter Randomness said...

Louise, do you need a key for those toilets? If so, is it one of the ones you can buy?

Moose said...

I don't care if a non-disabled person uses the accessible stall when the bathroom is busy. It's got a toilet.

But, yeah, I agree with the people who seem to use it as a vacation spot. My favorite are the women who use the handicapped stall to change their clothing.

I used to work somewhere where the handicapped stalls that also had sinks in them. Women would go in there for 10 minutes, primping and using hairspray and perfume, generally making it impossible for anyone to breathe. And I'd be outside having the following conversation:
Me: Excuse me, I really need to use the handicapped stall
Selfish $@$(: Just use one of the regular stalls, honey
Me: I am disabled, I need to use the handicapped stall, please
Selfish $@$(: I'll just be a few more minutes.

10 minutes later, if I haven't wet myself, or even if I can, I can finally go pee, after the previous occupant gathers her bags of clothing, accessories, and for all I know a frakkin novel, and sticks up her nose at me for daring to ask her to leave her nest.

(HR's comment was, "We're not in the job of policing who uses the bathroom." Yeah, thanks.)

Ettina said...

I only use the accessible toilet if all the others are busy/broken. But then again, I don't go to the same bathrooms as you. Maybe women are politer about it.

Andrea Bastien said...

This was a great post, Dave! The nerve of some people!! Have a good Monday☼