Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Big Green Chair

A picture from a moment in my life. I have to go to the bathroom, really, really, have to go. I get in my chair and push as fast as I can to the accessible, family, washroom. I am in luck there is no one there. I push the door open. I can't get it to open. I push as hard as I can and it only opens a quarter of the way. I simply can't get in.

My need is desperate.

I get out of my wheelchair. This is a day where I'm particularly bad and walking and balancing. But I have go. I look into the bathroom to see what's blocking it. And there sits a big, green, comfortable chair that has been put in for people to relax in. Who wants to relax in what's in essence just a 'shitter' is beyond me. But it only allows the door to be opened between a half and a quarter of the way. I hold on to the door, step over, reach down, push the chair out of the way, and then get back into my chair.

Now I can push the door wide enough to enter, but surprise, surprise, there's not really enough room with the two chairs. I get up, fold up my chair to give me room to move.

I do my duty.

I'm of an age where I make 'old man' noises when I pee.

That done, I struggle to open my chair, open the door and get out.

A big green chair.

But beyond all that, I can't believe how much of my time as a disabled person is involved in just finding places to go to the toilet. I've become so used to these conversations that I now have no idea when I'm oversharing. Because I talk to hotel desk clerks, reservationists, airport personnel, random strangers about my toilet needs.


Or perhaps, better said ...



Anonymous said...

It's a family restroom, right? My guess is that the chair is there for any nursing mothers. Maybe it could be positioned better, or maybe it's too big for the available space, but it's probably there for a reason.

Unknown said...

Well, if it has the wheelchair symbol for being accessible, then it needs to be accessible. Those restrooms are used by families who have disabled children, too. I get it that nursing mothers would find the armchair essential to them.
but really, who wants to eat (or have their baby eat) in 'the shitter'?
I am not unsympathetic to nursing mothers, by the way. It would be hard to push a stroller in, with a big green chair in the way.
I imagine the person who put the chair in the restroom had good intentions....but.....

Unknown said...

That chair should not be blocking access. Unfortunately, most malls and many people in our society expect mothers to feed their babies in bathrooms.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying it's a preferred place to nurse a baby, but I can easily see someone trying to meet that need in this way.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

There are also *parents* who have disabilities.

ABEhrhardt said...

You simply can't win, Dave. Unfortunately, you don't have the option to stop trying.

I think we need a movement to put an easily-removable sticky signs (4' squares sound about right) on places which are inaccessible, with a few checkboxes and a box for 'other' because not everything can be covered ahead of time.

For example, 'big green chair in restroom makes it impossible for wheelchair-using individuals to use the restroom' is 'other.'

Then stick it on the door afterward.

These people probably think their restroom is accessible. They are clueless. They need a clue.

Unknown said...

It's like places that have "accessible" doors that are so heavy it's almost impossible to pull or push them open... They're wide enough, but feel like they weigh 500 lbs...SIGH

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Heavy "accessible" doors were (and I'm guessing probably still) a big problem at the university I used to attend. A wheelchair using student even got some of the board members of the university involved with watching her demonstrate the problem she had with some of the doors, and the board talked to key authorities in the university about it. But the problem is, many of the doors have a thingy at the top that is supposed to stop it from slamming shut too loud, essentially by making it heavier so it swings more slowly in both directions. And apparently those things are fairly easy to adjust upwards or downwards in how heavy they make the door. So even if/when you successfully advocate for the door to be made lighter, someone could still come along who hasn't got the memo yet who just puts it back to the way it was, without understanding that they're now creating an accessibility barrier.

I guess what we need is wider education for EVERYONE about universal design principles and accessibility so people understand how easy it is to enable accessibility -- and how easy it is to mistakenly make an "accessible" thing "inaccessible" if you don't think through the impact of any proposed changes on users with disabilities. But people won't absorb the message until everyone VALUES accessibility, full inclusion, and universal design.