Ableism in the bathroom

By
October 5, 2014

The last time I used a handicapped bathroom stall, it was because it was 5 minutes before class, there were no open stalls, and I had drank two travel mugs of tea. I don’t think I had ever urinated faster. You never know when someone, for whatever reason, will need that larger stall, or need the handlebars next to the toilet, so I try to be aware of my many privileges as a able-bodied person, even in places like the bathroom. And it’s a point I try to make to others: how an able-bodied person using the handicapped stall can be a founded point of irritation for others. 

I guess my irritation sparked from the awkwardness that has been occurring in Rothwell, where there are three “regular” stalls and one handicapped stall, with one of the three toilets in the three regular stalls currently missing. So people either need to pee next to each other or across the room in the handicapped stall. Peeing in the handicapped stall is something I never do unless under extreme “I-will-burst-if-I-don’t-pee-right-now” circumstances, and it came to that once recently.

I never pee faster than when I do when I have to use the handicapped stall. When I tell people that I do this, they kind of scoff at me, sort of like, ‘why does it really matter,’ especially to me, an able-bodied, relatively small person?

It matters when your sister has mental and physical disabilities to the point where she needs assistance in the bathroom. My sister, who is 16, has Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome (RTS), where she progresses to certain stages, mentally, physically and emotionally, and then the progression halts. Currently my sister stands adorably at four feet while the rest of her body is still growing. She also needs help with day to day needs, such as making her PB&J for lunch every day, getting dressed and going to the bathroom.

It matters when you’re waiting for your mom and sister to get out of the bathroom, but someone who doesn’t need to use the handicapped stall is using it when there are other stalls open. There have been times where my mom and sister had to wait in line for long amounts of time (longer than the usual line for the bathroom), sometimes because someone was taking an extra long time in the bathroom. Other times, like once in Disneyland, they were stuck waiting for nearly twenty minutes because a woman decided she and her three children (the two older children being well past when you stop sharing a stall with your mother) all had to use the handicapped stall, even though they saw my sister in her wheelchair outside of the stall. Things like that are not okay; parents with older, able-bodied children could easily use the restroom in another stall and agree upon a meeting place. 

But for a stout 16-year-old and a grown woman (our mom), they need the disabled stall, as there is no conceivable way they can fit inside of a regular stall.

Next time you use the bathroom, be aware of what stall you use because you never know when someone will need the big stall, be it for the poles or the space, for whatever reason they may have. Be mindful of others. 


Ableism in the bathroom was published on October 5, 2014 in Column, Opinions

Print this page Print this page