Yesterday, I waited several minutes before being able to get into the only accessible toilet in the building. Someone was already in there. The person was getting changed – she did not have a disability.
In fact, she was changing from her work clothes to her cycling outfit just before going home. Obviously she thought the larger, wheelchair accessible cubicle was a better option to get changed than the other cubicles. She said “it’ll only be a minute”.
It wasn’t only a minute. It was more like 5 minutes. And when your bladder is full, time seems to drag on forever.
The problem is, I had no option to go elsewhere. Where she could have opted to change in an empty office, or in another toilet cubicle, I don’t fit in other cubicles, and I don’t think people would appreciate if I used the potted plants in the empty office…
Perhaps people don’t realise that a lot of wheelchair users have bladder and/or bowel issues. For many, the “I have to go” reflex isn’t working well and when we have to go, we have to go NOW. For many others, using in-dwelling catheters, if the legbag is full, it must be emptied. This is more than a simple matter of convenience – it’s a matter of health.
This reminded me of another time I had to wait for someone without a disability to be done in the only accessible cubicle. I knocked on the door, and was told “just a minute”. I heard a bit of rustling sound once in a while. When eventually the person walked out, they were folding up a newspaper. They didn’t even have the courtesy of looking embarassed.
Another time still, there were a couple “kids” that looked embarassed when they came out of the accessible toilet. This was at the mall. I could hear some interesting noises coming out of the accessible toilet. I knocked on the door. Heard some noises, and grumbling, and giggling. The door opened, and two teenagers, clothes in disarray, came out. I’ll never know for sure what was going on in that cubicle, but I have a fair idea. The girl, at least, looked bright red and wouldn’t meet my eyes when they came out.
It’s one thing to use the wheelchair friendly cubicle if all the other ones are used. But don’t use it only because it’s more convenient for you. Some people just don’t have a choice.
If you’re a wheelchair user, what’s your most memorable incident of an accessible toilet being used by someone who didn’t have accessibility needs?