Please don't use the handicapped bathroom if you're not disabled

Please don't use the handicapped bathroom if you're not disabled

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Handicapped bathrooms and accessible stalls are crucial for the people who need them. But 90 percent of the time, they're either occupied by nondisabled individuals or in a detestable state from people using these facilities to have a more comfortable bowel movement.

It's frustrating, it's disgusting, and it seriously impacts life with my special-needs son.

While my son is potty-trained, aiding him while using a public restroom is a necessity. For one thing, he does not have the capability of wiping himself, and I would rather help him than have him be dirty and uncomfortable until I can get him bathed. For another thing, he does not yet fully understand the concept of germs and how that relates to bodily functions. He's constantly putting his hands in his mouth, and the thought of him digging in the sanitary napkin receptacle or accidentally touching someone else's left-behind solids or fluids is absolutely horrifying, even if we wash his hands after he uses the restroom.

When I was in college, I went to an event featuring a motivational speaker and comedian who was born with no legs. He talked about the triumphs and travails of living in a world made for people of typical ability. One of his stories involved the struggles that he (and many others like him) experience in public restrooms.

He explained that he often wheels up to the handicapped stall only to find a man using it simply to have a more pleasant poo – you know, thanks to the added space and privacy. He said he loves hearing the person scramble while having that "Oh, crap!" moment (pun intended) upon realizing an actual disabled person needs to use the stall – and knowing that that person will be waiting right outside the door when he finishes his business.

When he told this story, the crowd laughed hysterically. But now that I find myself in this situation, it's far from funny.

You see, while this man pointed out the humor in the situation, he didn't mention how uncomfortable it is to so often find the handicap restroom awash in someone else's stench. Or that so many people neglect to flush the toilet. Maybe this is common enough (sadly) in every stall of every public restroom, but if you need the handicap stall, you can't just move on to the next one because the toilet seat is messy; you're forced to try to wipe it off before using it. Immunocompromised children and germy filth: not a good combination.

For a long, long time, I never said anything about this problem, because I feared hearing, "Well, maybe you should just stay home." Sadly, that's the solution a lot of people with disabled kids or family members are pushed into: staying home, sadly excluded from ordinary experiences like going to the movies, hanging out with friends at coffee shops, or going grocery shopping. The jerks abusing the system aren't just ruining things for us; they impact a whole community.

Every special-needs parent knows this struggle. We have become experts on which restaurants, shopping centers, parks, and playgrounds work or don't work for our child's needs because of things like the food they serve, the noise level, the shopping carts, the kind of swings they have – and the bathroom setup.

On behalf of special-needs individuals and their caregivers, I beg you to please be mindful of the handicapped facilities. If a regular stall is available and you are a regularly abled person, avoid taking up the handicapped stall. If you are forced to use a handicapped room or stall, don't use it as your public dumping ground. If you find the room to be dirty or unusable (or make it that way yourself), be a good person and notify staff at the establishment. I'm not asking for your sympathy; I'm asking for your respect.

Navigating the world is hard enough for special-needs people and their loved ones – please don't make it harder.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

Watch the video: Disability Showering Tips (August 2022).

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