Why Handicapped Stalls Annoy Me

HandicapAccessibleI’ve had a bee in my bonnet when it comes to handicapped bathroom stalls for the past dozen years.

That’s because someone who never had to care for loved ones designed most of the handicapped stalls I’ve used.

I cared for my mom for more than five years. She had Alzheimer’s, and she HATED confined spaces. In the later years of her disease, I often took her to appointments in a wheelchair to minimize her aggravation.

(Did you know that changing floor patterns can trigger agitation in those with dementia? So can cold and taking them from wide to narrow spaces.)

I challenge the average 150-pound adult to roll a wheelchair into a handicapped stall,squeeze their way past the wheelchair, then lift their loved one from the chair, strip off their underpants and pants while securing them, then safely seat their loved one, without cursing the wheelchair crammed up their own rear end? This is even more fun when you’re working with your elderly father-in-law. And it’s also exciting when you’re transferring a child with CP and seating them sideways on the toilet so they can grip the bar and not the germ-infested toilet seat to maintain their balance.

My point?

People who design handicapped stalls would benefit from spending time with all sizes and shapes of people with a variety of needs, in order to learn what works and doesn’t work for them.

We need to be committed to becoming experts in the needs of others. In seeing hurt from their perspective. in walking in their shoes. Lisa Copen, a friend and colleague, lives with chronic illness. She’s founded an amazing resource for those who live with chronic illness–Rest Ministries. I encourage your church to learn from Lisa–she offers great wisdom and resources.

What’s YOUR experience in being supported in your chronic illness?

10 thoughts on “Why Handicapped Stalls Annoy Me

  1. I hear you I hear you I hear you. The worst is trying to run everyone out of a men’s bathroom to help your husband, or hearing the harrumphs from women when you take him into the ladies’. He’s in a big motorized wheelchair and getting around that even to just help hold a urinal without bumping the wheelchair (if left on) and being run over by it in that little space is the pits. And then what to do with the urinal once you’ve emptied it? You can’t rinse it out, but try to get it back into a plastic bag which is okay the FIRST time you do that but then it is wet if you have to get it out again. Yep, caregiving ain’t for sissies.

    • Thank you, Latayne. This has been a long, hard struggle for you, and you’ve done it with grace.

  2. I am 23 years old and have Limb-girdle Muscular Dystrophy. I have learnt that I cannot go to the toilet when I am out around town. If I need the toilet I have to come all the way home because it is the only place that has the right facilities as I need a lifter and a change table. Even the hospital doesn’t have the right facilities – unless I have to be wheeled naked down the crowded hallway…

    • So sorry, Zia. People have no idea of the struggles. Thank you for your honesty. It helps all of us gain a better perspective on compassion and how even our best efforts can fall short of meeting needs.

    • I rarely comment on things but have to on yours. I’m 23 too and in a similar situation. I actually require a catheter now because I messed my bladder up so bad from years of just holding it because I could not use public restrooms. this issue can go a lot further than just “convenience”.

      • Thank you for offering you perspective, Carrie. Yes, this is not about “convenience.”

      • Oh, Carrie! I can relate to you! I’m from South Australia and I need a lot of care throughout the day so I have carers come and go all day and every day. However, Disability SA (people who give me the carers) expect me to go to the toilet on a timed schedule 4 times a day and go to bed at just 9:30pm every single night. It’s not fair. They don’t understand that you just can’t go to the toilet when someone tells you to. I would really like to see them try to live the way I do …

      • Zia, I recently spent time in the hospital for brain surgery. I was considered a “fall risk.” This meant that I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom without an aide standing at the door while I was on the toilet. I found myself unable to do anything but urinate with someone standing an arm’s length away from me. I can’t imagine the challenge of going to the bathroom a pre-programmed times and with caregivers placing expectations on you–how terrible for you. Dignity can often mean the most simple accommodations. Thank you for helping us understand.

  3. I understand the struggles you mention, and am not minimizing the struggles you endure, but I am grateful for what I have available as a person with a disability. I think it would be impossible for facilities to be expected to accommodate everyone’s unique needs or quirks.

    Take me for example, I am able to use regular bathrooms, but prefer to use handicapped. I have CP and am just more comfortable sitting sideways (I never understood why, so thank you for pointing out that it may have stemmed from habit as a child still grappling with how to make things work!), I also hate confined spaces, and really cold environments (bathrooms are usually freezing, and the hot water never seems to work), and I am a fan of bidets. But other people get hot easy (women in menopause come to mind), and many other people are uncomfortable with the idea of bidets. I deal.

    However, I think a step in the right direction for everyone would be first to make all the stalls bigger, as most people don’t like to be confined, regardless of size. This is especially helpful if you do have to take a little one or someone else in the stall with you. I also really love when stalls have sinks and soap inside the stall, because sometimes things happen and rather than embarrass the individual by letting everyone in the bathroom know, you can clean it up privately.

    • Thank you, Jill. I have traveled in Europe, South America, and other nations, and I’m also grateful that I don’t have to pack my own TP or squat over an open hole. I’m also grateful for the comparative privacy and sanitary conditions of American bathrooms. And I understand that we can’t accommodate every need. But I do think that the majority of handicapped stalls that are offered in public spaces (and often there is only one stall) are not large enough to accommodate a wheelchair and an adult person or an adult with a caregiver.

      Yes, I agree that a step in the right direction would be to make the stalls bigger.

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