Accessible? My Ass!

Sometimes, I do a slow burn when something really makes me angry.  Like the time this spring, when I got trapped in a public washroom.  While I did “share the moment” on Facebook, it took me the whole summer AND a post from another blogger to get off my behind to craft an appropriately snarky article that you also could contribute to.

On that day, while there was a handy sign indicating that the washrooms were “wheelchair accessible”, after I washed my hands and tried to leave I noticed the handle on the exit door was five feet off the ground!  With my short stature, stretched to full height, I did not have the leverage to pull the door open.

Worse still was the fear that while I stood there, pulling uselessly, some able-bodied person would smash into me when they opened the door from the other side. Because of course, there was no window in the door so you could at least step back before someone came in.

Who knows how long I would have been stuck there, if another gentleman had not been sitting in another stall. Here’s the kicker:  He was one of those people who takes FOREVER when on the can.  At least, it felt like forever while I was waiting there, plotting my potty room rescue.

I actually started chatting with him, because my fear was, he would think I was some kind of stalker, standing at the sink, waiting for some ungodly reason.  The conversation went something like this.

Me:  “Um, sorry to bother you.  I’m only waiting because I’m stuck, and can’t open the door to get out.”

Stranger: “OH.”  Slight chuckle.  “No problem, I’ll be done soon”.

Me, slightly embarrassed:  “Thanks.”

After he flushed and came out of his stall to wash his hands, we both marveled at the stupidity of it all.

I think these “wheelchair accessible” bathrooms need to be tested by the able-bodied contractors and builders who create them.  Tested while they are in a wheelchair, and then, walking on their knees. Tested while they are hung over, or sick with the flu, to really understand our predicament, and how our various states of health can affect our access to their less than brilliant designs.

Also, their testing should take place only AFTER they drank a full bottle of water, AND, taken a dose of powerful laxative AND forced to wait past the point of no return waiting for the ONLY accessible stall available on a busy day.

Here’s a brief list of some of the obvious things they might discover:

  • Are all the door handles the right height?
  • Can you get into the accessible stall, with a wheelchair, park it, AND close the stall door?
  • With that wheelchair in the stall, is there room for an attendant?
  • Are the sinks at the right height for knee clearance?
  • Are the faucets, soap, and hand-wiping/drying materials also accessible?
  • If the door is NOT automatic, do you need the strength of Hercules to pull the damn thing open?

I’m sure there are other scenarios and stupidities we encounter that I can’t even begin to imagine.  In your experiences while using public “accessible” washrooms, what other features and tests do you think should be required?  What other amazingly asinine design flaws have you had the displeasure of encountering?  Please share your thoughts!

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14 Responses to Accessible? My Ass!

  1. Dave says:

    The most common problem for me is that the chair can’t fit into the stall. I can walk a bit but then that means leaving my powerchair, which can be turned off but not locked, alone and I live with terror at the idea that I’ll come out and it will be gone.

    • Administrator says:

      You want room for you AND your power chair? So demanding, and so you should be! I will add TESTING WITH A POWER CHAIR to my list.

      Thanks Dave as always for your comments.

  2. Steph says:

    Two main annoyances for me is loo roll which is positioned in such an awkward place that you need the flexibility of a gymnast to reach it, and the flush position on the wrong side of the loo – like next to the wall which i guess most wheelchair users can’t reach it, I can on a good day, other days I have to be gross and leave it un-flushed.

    • Administrator says:

      Thanks for visiting and commenting Steph! And I agree, wheelchair testing of said loo, by able-bodied contractors, who are on strong laxatives, might teach them a lesson they might NEVER forget: Put the blasted toilet paper so that people with limited mobility can reach it!

  3. Denise Patterson says:

    My favorite restaurant was sold. The new owner remodeled. The place looks fantastic. Great food too. But the bathroom….. It used to be one big room. Now it’s an accessible stall and a regular stall. The stalls are fine the sink is the problem. The wastebasket sticks out two inches from the wall. There is no way I could get my manual chair to the sink. Lucky for me I carry wet wipes

    • Administrator says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting Denise. Gotta love it when “new and improved” actually means “changed, and not as good as it used to be”. Again, how hard can it be to test these things? Bathroom remodel grade? FAIL!

  4. Margaret-Ann says:

    I just went through this at the local YMCA last week. Accessible doors everywhere, accessible sign on bathroom stall. Only to get in there and figure out myself and my walker couldn’t fit in there & get the door closed. After some maneuvering I managed to get in and close the door. To find out there was a hook where you could hang your coat but it was at the top of the stall & no hand rails within the stall. I thought the YMCA would be a place that would be accessible, I guess it if you don’t have to use the washroom while there.

    • Administrator says:

      Thanks for your visit and sharing your story Margaret-Ann!

      If a walker cannot be included with a person in an “accessible” stall, imagine what a person in a wheelchair would have to go through? Again: Proper testing, by a contractor on a strong laxative, while in a wheelchair, would greatly improve public washroom access for all sorts of people with mobility restrictions.

      I hate to be so graphic with the following testing scenario. Well, no, I’m not sorry: It’s actually quite a serious problem when a sign is basically lying to us all. “Sorry you pooped your pants while dragging your butt from wheelchair to the toilet Mr. Contractor, guess your design was not so good after all. Back to the drawing board!”

  5. Bonnie says:

    Clearly, there need to be better standards….and they should be ENFORCED.

  6. Jenna says:

    A helpful hint that someone passed along when I took my LP daughter into an accessible stall….always leave the end of the tp roll hanging a bit(not to the floor) so that someone who is blind can find the end and pull off a section for themselves! Simple ! But I never thought of that before !!!

    I TOTALLY agree with the issues as you mentioned them. And if you are super challenged vertically, how the HECK do you get leverage on some of these doors?!!?!?!? I am struggling that at both church and school right now for my kids……

    • Administrator says:

      Thanks for the visit and feedback Jenna! Thoughtful advice on the toilet roll.

      As for leverage on doors with high handles, not too much to be done about it, except, lots of workouts or, never travel alone!

  7. Cheryl Bogler says:

    I am average parent of an 8 month old L.P. My concern is about toilet height! I am wondering about her access as nothing in the public realm looks accessible.

  8. Cheryl Bogler says:

    Thanka. And I agree, giving up is not an option!

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