Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Key to Unlocked Doors

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.

4 comments:

Jenni said...

Yes, it's the Radar key system. It's great when you've found out about it and have your key, as it means the accessible loo is generally a lot cleaner. It's not great if you don't know about it - I often say they should give you a handbook 'now you are disabled' so you can learn all these things in one place straight off, rather than having to work it out as you go along.

Having a key system means someone can unlock a door from the outside when the toilet is locked and in use. This is great if you're in there and then unexpectedly need help. I give hubby my key and he waits outside to rescue me if necessary! However, it's less good if you're in there and someone else with a key wants to use the toilet too. There are two circles on the door handle which should show white when the toilet isn't in use and show red when it is and the person has lifted the handle to lock it as 'occupied'. But the people who install the locks don't always seem to know how to install them properly, so the red and white often display at the wrong times. Therefore I recommend always making a slight fuss of unlocking the door (knock on the door first, unlock and open the door slowly) in case there's a person already in the loo. Yes, this is the voice of bitter experience. :)

CapriUni said...

Yes, but having to buy a key -- when abled people don't have to pay (or do they, still, in the UK?) -- isn't that a "disability tax?"

Girl on wheels said...

CapriUni, the keys are not very expensive. A couple of pounds if I remember correctly. And it means that I usually don’t have to wait to use the bathroom, because only other disabled people have the key. I will admit it is supremely irritating when you don’t have your key with you, but now I just keep my key in the pocket on my chair and I get to use a clean bathroom without waiting.

Rachel S said...

Nobody should have to wait for somebody to come to unlock a bathroom. That is all kinds of bullshit right there. You were very much locked out of that bathroom, Dave, and don't let them convince you otherwise!

I've seen so-called "family" bathrooms occasionally here in the States which are accessible and basically unisex. None of them have been locked unless from the inside by current users. I'm fairly sure that'd be illegal in the US. Deity (or none) of your choice knows the US is messed up but I think we've not done entirely horribly in disability law - how said law is applied can be a mixed bag, but at least it's there.