Potty Privileges For The Privileged Pottymouths

by admin on March 13, 2013

Several years ago I used a public washroom (at a small movie theatre during low traffic hours) with two stalls, one regular and one handicap. One other person was in there, using the regular stall. I went into the handicap stall. While I was in there (maybe a minute or so, not long), I heard someone come in the door. When I came out of the stall, a little old lady with a walker snapped, “What are YOU doing in there?  B*tch!”
I was too surprised to say anything. I washed my hands and left. But this raises a question. I have never in my life heard of avoiding a handicapped bathroom stall for possible handicapped people needing to use it. I would absolutely never park in a handicapped parking spot. But a handicapped bathroom stall? I’ve told this story to others wondering if I missed some moral or ethical consideration and apparently I haven’t. They usually laugh at the idea of a little old lady swearing at me.  I would avoid a handicapped stall in a bathroom with regular stalls available. But to avoid using an available handicapped stall if no one else needs it and all others are in use?  0311-13
As a holder of a handicapped parking placard and user of handicapped bathroom stalls, I can assure you that no one has a right to unobstructed, immediate access to any bathroom stall regardless of whether they are handicapped or not.    That means sometimes handicapped users might have to wait their turn to use a stall just like everyone else may need to.    The scenario you mention of two stalls, one regular and one handicapped, is a common sight in US restaurants and it is absolutely ridiculous to not utilize both stalls if there is no handicapped person obviously in need of it.    Good heavens, what if Crabby Granny had walked into the bathroom to find the handicapped stall in use by another handicapped person?   Pitch a fit because access wasn’t immediate?

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess March 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Kirst March 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I agree with you to some extent but if there are only two stalls then really a disabled person would not be put out much waiting like everyone else. Maybe let them go next but holding it open IN CASE they need to use it is silly. Also I am not going to apologize to anyone about this but when my kids were younger I went into the disabled stall so I could take then in and keep an eye on them. The chance my kids could be lured away or wander off is more important to me than a disabled person waiting a couple of minutes to pee. Also now that my boys are older they cannot use the ladies and I am not going to let them go in the gents on their own (this doesnt mean I think ALL men take advantage of children, only that some do and I dont want to risk that for my kids) if there is a separate ‘unisex’ loo I will let them go in there because I can know they are alone.


White Lotus March 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

This can be regional. In Hometown State, people do not use the accessible stall, saving it “just in case” though sometimes when there are lines, people will agree by consensus to use it but give way if someone who needs it comes in. In HugeUCity State, it is the established consensus that the accessible stall is used by all comers, but anyone who actually needs it gets it next. I have never heard anyone questioned or treated discourteously for using or saying, “excuse me, I need that one.” People just say, “sure” and move over.


Calliope March 13, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Perhaps this differs by region, but in the part of the US I’m from, it is considered rude to refer to people as “handicapped”. I’m surprised to see that this isn’t the case in other parts of the country. I do commonly see references to “handicap placards” for cars, but not “handicapped people”.


Katy March 13, 2013 at 9:37 pm

My mother is handicapped, though not wheelchair bound. She occasionally uses a cane during a bad day, and anyone who sees her walk can figure it out immediately. If you only saw her standing still or sitting you might not know, it’s a lack of muscle on her legs, easily covered by pants. She uses the handicapped stall on the days she’s having trouble standing on her own. Even she was accosted once for being ‘too healthy’ for the handicapped stall, and she was on a crutch with a sling on one arm!
I don’t use the handicapped stall if I can avoid it, though I have used it after a knee injury made it nearly impossible for me to stand up without using the bar. If I’m with my eldest DD I can sometimes squeeze both of us in a regular stall, and she’s starting to be able to use the stall by herself, but if the handicapped stall is open, we’ll use it. If I have both DDs with me, I’ll wait for the handicapped one. There’s no way I can get three of us in a regular stall, and since the changing table is in that stall in many places I’m forced to go there. I’ll defer to a handicapped person if they come in, but there are other legit uses, and I would never presume to know if someone is handicapped by sight alone.


La March 13, 2013 at 9:50 pm


I don’t really like the terms mentally/physically challenged because it implies that it’s possible to ‘get over’ a disibility with hard work. That’s not true in many cases. There’s many that can be allieviated or covered up with hard work but that’s ongoing (I have Asperger’s and can pass for mildly eccentric neurotypical with hard work and without my secondary mental illness getting in the way, but because of that mental illness I have no emotional space to do that hard work and have thus reverted to ‘aspie weirdo’). I guess it depends on the person and the community surrounding the condition so its best to check if you’re unsure as to the best terms.


I’m probably a good example of this. I am aspie (as opposed to having Asperger’s) but I have Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (as opposed to being Emotionally Unstable Personality Disordered). The difference being that Asperger’s is part of who I am and although it can cause problems it also makes me ‘me’, where as EUPD is horrible and I view it as an external antagonist that has, for some reason, set up shop in my brain.


waitress wonderwoman March 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

OP, you did nothing wrong. Unless you have psychic abilities you forgot to mention, how were you to know she would be coming into the restroom after you? And she obviously didn’t seem to be put into a medical emergency by having to wait a few minutes. I probably, like your friends, would have just laughed it off.
@LonelyHound- the woman behind you in line sounds awesome!!!!
This may go against what other commenters have expressed but I have, in my experiences, found that some people tend to be more vocally “opinionated” the older they get. My mother, who is getting somewhat up there in her years is often saying, “I’m lived a long time and I DO NOT BITE MY TONGUE ANYMORE!!” (Granted, I’m pretty sure she’s never called a stranger the B-word, but if they really pissed her off, well, then, I could definitely see it happening). I’ve told her numerous times that the “I don’t bite my tongue” line doesn’t give her free range to be rude, but…. *sigh* she’s my mom, she’s been this way for a while, I know she isn’t going to change and, well, to know her is to love her. And actually, sometimes her saying exactly what she thinks, has been exactly what was needed in some family situations when no one else wanted to rock the boat (a boat that sometimes really, really needed to be rocked).
On a funny side note: I once went on a date in college with a guy who parked in a handicapped space at the movies. Before I could ask him what the heck he was doing, he whipped out a handicapped tag and put it on the mirror. He said swiped it from is grandfather. I guess he thought he was being thoughtful? I should have made him remove it and park somewhere else but hindsight is 20/20, (I was young and hadn’t really found my polite spine yet). First and last date BTW.


VM March 13, 2013 at 11:37 pm

The term “handicapped” comes from the sporting world, where it refers to a way of evening the odds. It’s the vastly superior horse, for example, that is “handicapped” by making him carry extra weight, so that the others have a fighting chance to win the race. Sad to think that such an elegantly euphemistic term is now considered rude and disrespectful.


Anderlie March 14, 2013 at 12:24 am

Kristi and Jess your attitudes about the handicap stall are selfish in the extreme. People with disabilities might also have issues with bladder/bowel control or even just be at a point where it’s painful for them to wait. It’s horrible of you to think that your place in line or your able bodied children’s comfort is more important than the potential embarrassment of that person or the prolonging of their pain. I’ve seen plenty of mothers with their children in a regular stall and they were managing just fine, the rest is just excuses and justification.


Sarah March 14, 2013 at 2:46 am

There are many reasons it’s good etiquette to let a disabled/handicapped person to the front of the line for the handicapped access stall. First and most important, they have to wait for that particular stall. That means they will probably be waiting just as long as the other people in the bathroom are waiting in general, especially if someone just went into it. Also, if they have special equipment with them like crutches or a wheelchair, faster access means less potential bumping them around, especially if it’s crowded. Bathrooms are almost always dinky and working around a wheelchair can be potentially hazardous to both its occupant and to people that might trip over them.

More than that, though, doing this accommodates the person that needs it without inconveniencing those waiting in line overly much. Even in a two-stall bathroom, there’s still one stall that’s open for use, so the line will still be moving. Finally, it’s just a nice thing to do. That person has it hard enough. There’s no reason to make things harder for them by making them wait even longer than most people would have to.

And there are many reasons why it’s not bad etiquette to use the handicapped access stall unless a person comes in that needs it. Let’s face it, the handicapped stall is a lot nicer than the other stalls. You can do your business without having to wrestle with the door or go into clown-like contortions. If you’re wearing something complex like a one-piece jumper, trying to get out of that thing in the normal stall is near impossible. But more than that, using that stall particular stall does not inconvenience someone other than a few minutes of waiting, which is something everyone has to do in a bathroom at one point or another.

It’s not like taking a handicapped-accessible chair at the theater, where you’re there for hours and have to be told to move. It’s also not like a handicapped parking space, which would all be completely occupied all the time and never have handicap access if others were allowed to park there. Rather, it’s like the handicapped-accessible checkout lane, or the wheelchair ramp — very important to have, but fine for everyone to use.

Really, it’s all about fairness. We don’t want to coddle people because of a disability, but we don’t want to punish them for it either.


Kirst March 14, 2013 at 3:05 am

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggested the following definitions in 1980:

Impairment: a loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function.

Disability: any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of the ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.

Handicap: a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or a disability, that limits or prevents the fulfilment of a role that is normal (depending on age, sex, and social and culture factors) for that individual.

Impairments and disabilities may be temporary or permanent, reversible or irreversible, and progressive or regressive. The situation people find themselves in may determine to what degree a disability is handicapping for them. It is evident from the definitions above that a handicap is the result both of an impairment and of environmental conditions. If environmental barriers are taken away, the person will still be impaired, but not necessarily handicapped. It should also be noted that the definition of disability as distinct from handicap is not without problems, in particular the formulation “considered normal for a human being”, and many people with disabilities do not distinguish their use.

The functional ability of people who are diagnosed as having the same impairment or disability may vary widely. For example, some people who are legally blind may be able to utilize differences in light intensity, while others are unable to perceive such differences. People who have clinically similar hearing impairments, as shown on audiograms, may use quite different aspects of the acoustic information available to them. The degree of handicap may vary significantly and may be specific to certain situations.

And in addition to that, many people with disabilities reject the above definition as being rooted in the medical model of disability – that is, there is something wrong with them which cannot be cured – and prefer to view disability and handicap as a social construct. A person in a wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs cannot get up the stairs. A person in a wheelchair by a lift or at the bottom of a ramp can get up to the next level. The problem is caused by the environment, not their personal circumstances.


Kate March 14, 2013 at 4:34 am

I generally avoid using those toilets unless every other one is occupied, simply because I don’t have the need for the extra room. However, I do have IBS, and sometimes it is just not possible for me to wait and I’d use whatever toilet you put in front of me.

As a side note, in Australia it is also considered offensive to use the term ‘handicapped’. The general term is ‘people with disabilities’, except for people in the Deaf community who, I’m told, generally don’t mind being referred to as ‘deaf’. Personally I prefer the person-first language- I’d rather be referred to as ‘Kate, who has a mental illness’ rather than ‘mentally ill person’.


delislice March 14, 2013 at 5:44 am

It’s interesting that the discussion seems to be mostly about the correct term for people with disabilities, and what constitutes a disability that would entitle one to use the designated stall.

As far as I’m concerned, in a public restroom, if there’s no line and only the “handicap stall” is available, if I can manage to wait, I will. If I’m about to wet myself, I won’t.

If there’s a line, and every stall in constant use, I figure it’s first come, first serve. I don’t anticipate taking any longer in the “handicap stall” than I would in any other.


Serena March 14, 2013 at 7:13 am

At the risk of sounding snarky (which is not my intention, I assure you) I would love for someone to explain to me how holding one’s water can cause a vascular event (stroke) in the brain. Sounds a bit far-fetched to me. I’d love for someone to offer a source or otherwise educate me on this because, quite frankly, I’m captivated.


Ophelia Payne March 14, 2013 at 7:51 am

The accessible stalls are provided for exactly that reason: to provide an accessible commode for those with physical limitations (the toilet is lower to the floor, there are handrails on the walls). There should be no expectation of priority access if other people are waiting to use a toilet and all other commodes are occupied.


NostalgicGal March 14, 2013 at 8:06 am

Handicapped stalls have more room, yes. If there are more people waiting to use the bathroom than there are stalls, yes, I can see and have done my share of take the next one open. I also will yield to someone disabled who needs the handicapped stall if I am waiting in line; they don’t always have the luxury of waiting, but. Unless there is an attendant in that bathroom and the disabled person ‘called in ahead’ that they are arriving and need that stall, there is no way of knowing when someone that needs the stall will be coming in, and people should not have to skip using that stall when there is a line.

A club I belong to pays the local high school a yearly fee to be able to use one of the classrooms as meeting and class/event space when the school isn’t using it to conduct classes. The attendant bathrooms to that area… they have one seriously disabled student who is in motie and has to have two assistants while she is in class… and they had to remodel the one bathroom to accomodate her needs, so two stalls were made one, with a curtain, harness lift, and other accessories. That left two regular stalls.

Now obviously, if she needs to go, nobody is going to use that stall or make her wait… but during peak demand times I have used that one and so have others. The fixture is still a standard basic unit and useable by most anyone that needs to go. So point–I see no reason to not use a handicap stall as long as you yield to those that need it, and let them go ahead of you if there is a line.


Joni March 14, 2013 at 8:33 am

I would think that a person whose disability causes a precipitous need to use the facilities would know to plan ahead, bring extra supplies if necessary, but not simply hope that a bathroom can be accessed in time. (My SIL is in this position due to a brainstem stroke. While she is able to use an accessible stall with assistance, she also knows to be prepared.) Obviously, the accessible stall is there for your use but what if it is a longer distance away than anticipated? What if it is closed for cleaning? What if it is in use by another person with a disability?

The larger size of the accessible stalls are a boon to parents of young children. I have used them many times when my children were potty-training and their little legs weren’t quite long enough to get onto/off the potty without assistance. Try doing that in a regular stall where there is barely enough room for a fully grown adult to turn around.


Kristi March 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Anderlie – although I thought it was an unwritten rule around here to avoid personal attacks and argue or debate rationally and with logic, you seem to think it’s ok to refer to me as both selfish and horrible, for simply expressing my views on the subject at hand. The situation I had in my head when I posted my response was having waited in line for an unknown (but still some length) amount of time and now the stall door opens and it’s my turn, but wait, look, behind me someone who is in some way disabled has joined the line…I would not beckon or encourage that person to come to the front of the line and resume waiting. Unless that person somehow indicated distress! I would assume that the person got in line when she had to go, and would understand that if there was a line she’d have to wait, like everyone else. If there is a medical condition that would cause the IMMEDIATE need to urinate the very second the person felt the urge, obviously counting on the availability of a handicap stall is a pretty big risk, better have a plan b.


Anonymous March 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

@VM–That’s very interesting; I never knew that. My mother told me, years ago, that the expression “handicapped” referred to people who were disabled/differently abled during an era when businesses weren’t designed to accommodate this, so those people had to resort to holding out their hats (caps) in their hands (handi), and begging for money–hence the term “handicapped.” I still use that expression, because it really doesn’t seem to have that connotation anymore, but I try to use the “person-first” language when I remember–for example, “a person in a wheelchair,” or “a person with XYZ Disability.” I also like “differently abled,” because it reminds people that even though someone can’t walk, or see, or hear (for example), they may indeed have different abilities. For example, one of my colleagues in university was in a wheelchair, but he was very good at the trombone. I don’t play the trombone; I play something different. Another one of my colleagues was completely blind, but she was a very talented singer. I can sing okay, but she could sing C above the staff, and she was especially good at singing the songs from “Carmen.” All I remember is “L’amour est un oiseau rebelled.” Meanwhile, I can walk, and I can see, but I can’t play the trombone at all, and I can’t sing nearly as well as my former colleague who was blind.


Michelle C Young March 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I haven’t read the comments, yet, so please forgive me if I’m repeating something someone else already said.

Admin, you asked what would Crabby Granny do if another handicapped person was using the stall. I would like to point out that she really had no idea whether OP was handicapped, or not. Not all handicaps are highly visible. And some less visible handicaps might actually require the use of a bit more room and/or grab bars to help with the balance while pulling down panties, and the like.

So, in truth, Crabby Granny was WAY out of line, even if there were a rule about not using the handicapped stall unless you are handicapped.

It’s very similar to the situation of healthy people in an elevator (going up/down several floors) berating someone for only going up/down one or two floors, and telling them that they should take the stairs. Or healthy people telling someone who is overweight and using a scooter to just “get up off your fat ass, and you’ll lose the weight and you won’t need the scooter, anymore,” because fat is magic, and it attracts wounds/injuries/illnesses, while being thin will retro-actively remove any illness or injury which might cause the need for a scooter. And sometimes people are fat because of the injury causing them to be unable to exercise, in the first place.

Crabby Granny should learn not to assume that other people are hale and hardy, just because they look like it. Prosthetic legs and braces can hide quite effectively under a pair of pants, and she could have been talking to an amputee, or something, and not even know it.

If you’re going to assume, the best bet is to assume that the person has a very good reason for doing the thing they’re doing. Most of the time, you’ll be right. And if you’re wrong, well, unless they come right out and tell you, you likely won’t know you’re wrong, so you’ll have so much more peace of mind.

OK, now to read the comments.


Michelle C Young March 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Wow – all these stories about being judged, because you “don’t look handicapped.”

You know, sometimes, I take great pleasure in stating, “I was hit by a truck.” The fact that I WAS hit by that truck irks me, especially because he changed lanes to do it (Who moves from a lane where the traffic is moving to one where it has already stopped?), and I’m quite angry with that truck-driver. But still, when I’m faced with one of THOSE people, I can look them squarely in the eye, say “I was hit by a truck,” and limp away, with my head held as high as my injured neck can bear to hold it.

And no, I don’t “look handicapped.” In my experience, most people with a handicap placard don’t “look handicapped,” either.

Oh, and not to threadjack, but this just brings up another issue – when you’re in a crowd, and a scooter is coming through, for your OWN safety, get out of the way. You are more nimble than a scooter. YOU can stop or step to the side much faster than a scooter can stop, or veer out of the way. And for goodness’ sake, don’t actually step in front of the scooter, as it’s coming toward you, just because you want to be in THAT spot RIGHT NOW. Wait for the scooter to pass, and then step into your preferred spot in the middle of the pathway. The laws of physics DO apply. Momentum means it takes time to stop, and the more mass being moved, the more momentum is involved.

My mother and I were at an amusement park, and due to her foot problems (they hurt from the moment she steps out of her bed in the morning), I insisted she use a scooter. From time to time, when my own body was giving me issues, she insisted I use the scooter. At any rate, we both had real reasons to use the scooter. It was quite crowded, but most people would move out of the way, if they saw us coming, because most people do not want to be hit by a motorized vehicle, however small.

However, some people just did not get it, and would either stand stock-still in our path, or even step directly in front of us. When the crowds got to be too much of an annoyance for my mother (she said she’d rather put up with the pain than the nerve-wracking tension of driving a scooter in a crowd with entirely too many fools in it), I decided to take matters into my own hands. I walked in front of her, flapping my arms, and yelling, “Crazy Person, coming through!” They gave me outrageous looks, but they got out of the way, and we didn’t hit anyone. Yay!

Sometimes, you just have to *own* your handicap.


Michelle C Young March 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Elizabeth – #42 – about a handicap sometimes making you unable to hold it

You are spot on! After my accident, for the first several months, I had to wear Poise pads EVERY DAY, because the nerves had been damaged, and I got no advance warning. It used to be that I’d feel a gradual build up, and think, “I should use the bathroom, soon,” and then if I went within the next 15, or even 30 minutes, I’d be fine. After the accident, I’d be toodling along, just fine, and then all of a sudden, “I HAVE TO PEEEEEEE, NOOWWWWWWWW!!!!” And quite frequently did not make it to the bathroom, even though it was only 20 feet, or so, from my desk. Thank goodness for Poise pads. They live up to their name.

Therefore, I am one of those people who will allow someone who looks or sounds desperate to go ahead of me in line. I can’t speak for other people, but I always believe the “I’m desperate” pleas.

Also, my niece had a similar issue, when she was younger. A physical problem meant that she got little to no warning, and so the family rule was that if she said she had to go, we made sure she could go without delay. And sometimes, we’d tell her, “now is a good time to use the bathroom. Please try, even if you don’t feel like it.” One day at church, a teacher told the group that they would not be allowed to leave class to go to the bathroom, since they had the opportunity to go to the bathroom before class. I told her that just would not work for my niece, and if she said she needed to go, the teacher had better let her go, or be prepared to clean up the puddle. I understand that she was trying to teach responsible behavior, and I’m all for that. But to not *allow* for people’s bodies to be, well, human, seemed rather harsh to me. After my sister explained my niece’s condition to the teacher, the rule was changed to a guideline. The teacher was much more patient with students who needed to go, and didn’t get upset at the interruption, and at the same time, there were fewer interruptions, because the students respected the guideline. Win-win!


Michelle C Young March 14, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I think the solution is quite obvious: Retrofit all current buildings, and make all future buildings have ONLY handicap accessible stalls.

Also, at least one “family” restroom per building, please.

And a unisex bathroom, for those who feel unsafe in either of the sexed ones.

Of course, this obvious solution isn’t highly feasible. But if I ever become an architect, I know that accessible restrooms for all, and lots of them, will be a priority. Frankly, I wonder why more buildings don’t do it, already. If they were only built within the last few years, why not? Space is at a premium, I suppose. And yet, I see so many fancy buildings with so much wasted space. If I had to choose between a spacious atrium and spacious restrooms, I’d choose the restrooms, every time.

Also, as someone who has frequent dizzy spells, I’d opt for ramps, rather than stairs, as much as possible. It’s much less painful to fall down a ramp, than stairs. Even if you roll, you’re not banging yourself on the hard edges.

Hmmm, maybe I should change careers.


Gabriele March 14, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Ophelia Payne,

I live in California (and have travelled elsewhere) and I have found the RM (reduced mobility) stalls to have toilets that are higher than regular ones, rather than lower. I think the idea is to make it easier for the LM person to lower and raise themselves–and the side bar(s) are placed accordingly.
In France, hotels provide special access options for people with ‘mobilite reduit’ (reduced mobility) and I like the term so much I use it frequently as it describes a function rather than a person.
Sometimes my knees work well, but sometimes they don’t…and in particular if I’ve been sitting in a chair (or on a bench seat) in a restaurant that doesn’t offer comfortable seating (I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about) by the time I’m going to the WC, I need the help sitting and getting up.

Such a situation arose and it happened when I not only urgently needed the facility but for a somewhat extended time…(several flushes, in other words). A woman came in with several children and started banging on the door. I explained I wasn’t finished and couldn’t leave immediately. Since she couldn’t see inside the stall she could have no idea what my physical condition was so her anger and frustration seemed rather over the top.
I told her there was another stall (she insisted it was too small for herself and her two children) and I also told her (quietly, calmly) that yelling at me was not going to make my digestive distress resolve itself any faster. That I was sorry she was inconvenienced but I would be quite happy to be done with my going and until I was done, I would not be going anywhere else.
I had half-hoped she’d go to the manager of the restaurant to complain (although I know there’s nothing they could do) because I knew the people at that particular restaurant and they were aware that at time I had RM…but she preferred to yell at me rather than present a somewhat dubious complaint to a manager.
All in all, I prefer to NOT use public facilities but of course we don’t always have a choice.


The Elf March 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Michelle, while your solution would work it just isn’t feasible due to problems of cost, space concerns, preserving a historical building, etc. It’s a good idea where possible, and for new buildings, but just not feasible universally.


Jess March 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm

If you gotta go, then you gotta go. While I try not to use the handicapped stall, when there is no other option I’ll use it and use it as quickly as possible.
Crabby Granny was being, well, a crabby granny. Don’t worry about it, OP–it’s not like you shoved her out of the way to get to the stall first or anything.


Outdoor Girl March 14, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I am a large woman. Some of the regular stalls are so small, I have to straddle the toilet in order to close the door and open it again. So if there is no line and the larger stall is available, I use it. If there is a line and someone identified that they needed that stall, I would let them go ahead of me and I would either use a regular stall or wait for the larger one.


Anonymous March 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm

@Michelle C. Young–I’m glad that you and your niece both found solutions to your various bathroom issues, but some people feel the opposite, on the subject of incontinence products for individuals with issues that make it so they don’t get much warning in the bathroom department. I used to have an online friend, who had a daughter with moderate-to-severe autism (so, more than Asperger’s syndrome–she was non-verbal, and she went to a special school). Anyway, my friend’s daughter was potty-trained, but it took until she was something like five years old for her to finally get out of Pull-Ups, both day and night, and then when she was seven or so, she started having accidents again, but my friend made a point of NOT putting her daughter back in Pull-Ups, because she didn’t want her to lose the control she had. In the end, she stopped having accidents. Anyway, from what my friend told me, it turns out that a lot of doctors, and parents of kids and adults with various issues, recommend specifically NOT wearing/keeping protection on hand, because wearing underwear forces the person to try to make it to the bathroom. Although this would also be theoretically possible with Pull-Ups, the general consensus is that underwear is better, because it forces the issue by removing the proverbial “safety net.” Also, I know another poster upthread that people with less control (for whatever reason) should “keep extra supplies on hand” just in case an able-bodied person should refuse them access to the handicapped bathroom stall, but besides the dignity factor, even if they ended up needing the pads, Pull-Ups, or similar, then they’d still need to change them, so they’d still need that handicapped stall, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.


Ange March 15, 2013 at 2:11 am

There’s nothing irrational about stating what can be the case with people with a disability; some simply need the toilet more than you and if there’s a line they should get priority. It’s not hard to be unselfish and perhaps assume that someone may not be comfortable letting you know the current state of their bladder. I work with people with disabilities and it’s bad enough that they face discrimination, their car parks are regularly appropriated by those who shouldn’t be in them but then to face this attitude by someone who doesn’t actually know their situation at all:

“I don’t feel it necessary to let a handicapped person bump to the front of the line either, just because you are in a wheelchair does not make your need to use the bathroom any greater than the rest of the people who are waiting in line.”

Yeah, I’m going to throw some shade at that.


Kira March 15, 2013 at 6:09 am

I find it sadly funny that the old lady assumed just because she couldn’t see a disability they person may not have needed the use of the bathroom. I don’t have a visually obvious disability, but need to use the disabled bathroom and parking on occasion. So I would have probably been abused for using a bathroom I have total right to use.


Kirst March 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Serena, people who have had spinal injuries are at risk of reflex autonomic dysreflexia. This is a very complex and extremely dangerous condition which can be triggered by any kind of physical discomfort, such as badly needing to void bladder or bowels, constipation, blisters, pressure sores, ingrown toenails – anything which causes pain/discomfort. It causes a sudden rise in blood pressure, profuse sweating, blurred vision and if left undiagnosed and untreated can cause stroke, heart attack, seizures and death.


Enna March 15, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I can’t believe this: I would have so tempted to say “you’re old enough to know better about swearing. I’m too old to wet myself.” If there were no spare stalls then it is okay to use a disabled toliet espcially if there is a queue as it keeps the queue down. A disabled person takes persedance if they should enter the bathroom. She doesn’t know you: if she said that to someone who had a hidden disablity then she would have looked very stupid when the person said “yes, I am a B!tch with ABC condtion.”

Disabled toliets are different from disabled parking bays: you only spend minutes in a tolietn which I think is the key difference.


Joni March 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm

>>Also, I know another poster upthread that people with less control (for whatever reason) should “keep extra supplies on hand” just in case an able-bodied person should refuse them access to the handicapped bathroom stall<<

Part of the point that I was making with that statement is that there are other conditions which would render an accessible stall not immediately available. What happens if the person with one of these conditions (where a full bladder can lead to a stroke, etc) arrives at the bathroom and finds that the stall is *occupied by another person with a disability*?

I know that if I, personally, had a condition where a full bladder could lead to a paralyzing stroke or worse, I would make sure *not* to count on the availability of a stall at the last possible moment. One of the things that we teach our young children is how to recognize bladder/bowel signals *early* and not wait until it is an emergency before locating some kind of facilities. Because you never know what the situation is going to be when you arrive there! (And when we are on a road trip and we stop to use the bathroom, I don't care if you don't think you have to go, *everyone goes.*)


Kirst March 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm

It’s very easy to suggest that disabled people shouldn’t wait til the last moment, but chances are it took them much longer to reach the bathroom than someone who can walk at a normal pace.

Is it really that difficult to say to yourself “there are 20 stalls here I can use so I will use the 19 which are not suitable for the person who can only use one of them”?


Monkey mommy March 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I would also like to point out that a lot of establishments in the US also place the baby changing tables in the handicapped stall. If I have a wet, stinky baby needing a change, and it’s in that stall, you can bet we are going in.


Anonymous March 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm

@Joni–That’s exactly what I meant. Instead of putting her seven-year-old, autistic daughter back in Pull-Ups (after she’d only been completely out of them for about two years), my friend was trying to re-train her daughter to go to the bathroom regularly, before the need became urgent. A lot of medical professionals, and parents of kids with special needs (or even able-bodied kids in the process of potty-training) recommend this approach, instead of the “extra supplies” approach.


NostalgicGal March 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm

One other… on a long road trip in the early 90’s, pulled into a rest stop, the women’s bathroom was being (pressure washed by the sound of it) and some repairs done, so a sign was up to take turns using the men’s. Something had disagreed with me seriously which is why we’d pulled in, but, it was currently men’s room for men, so I got in line, leaned against the wall, and sort of huddled there and did mind games on we shall NOT have a mess until it’s my turn…

Family pulled in and had two boys with them, 8-10 years old. They read the sign, the missus got in the women’s line. (now about 5-6 of us) and there were a few guys in there finishing up by the sounds.

Father decides to send his younger son in there to CHECK if the guys in there were about done. I figured (and kept it to myself) that the boy would probably use the urinal if let in there and a moment later dad went in because boy didn’t come out and he was dragging son by the elbow and giving him a major dressing down for deciding he could buck the line and jump turns by going when he was supposed to be checking! I really was beyond caring at that moment, just trying to hang on until it was my turn….

The three fellows that were in there did emerge in the next couple of minutes and yes it blessedly was my turn! I did not waste my time as there were a few that were going to have to wait anyways… and I did manage to make it long enough to not have mess.

The mom who was at the end of the line took turn after me and she apologized, I tried to be gracious and thank her, and I understood what had gone on.

Kudos to that dad on enforcing some manners on his son. I hope the young lad learned and is teaching his children the same, to be courteous, have manners, and take a turn….


Jaxsue March 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I am on temp disability since I badly fractured my ankle in January. I have the handicapped parking permit (to be honest, it feels very weird using it, even though I need it legitimately). When I walk into a public restroom I definitely look disabled. I have no problem waiting for the handicapped stall to open up. I am fine with someone with a disability jumping the line, though.
I agree with PPs that someone using the handicapped stall is not the same as someone using handicapped parking spots.


The Elf March 17, 2013 at 8:36 am

Kirst, the situation is not that that there are 20 stalls and all of them are open. The situation is that there are two stalls, one is handicapped, and the other is taken. Do you wait or do you use the handicapped one? By changing the situation so dramatically, your point is lost.


Kirst March 17, 2013 at 10:08 am

I would wait. I think it’s absolutely rotten of ablebodied people who can use any cubicle at all to take the one accessible toilet.


Michelle C Young March 18, 2013 at 11:19 am

For a while there, after my accident, I basically went on a timer. Since I didn’t get adequate notice, I would just go every half hour or so, to be safe. As my nerves improved, I used protection, just in case, and went every hour, instead. Finally, I was able to be almost normal, again, and would go days without bothering to wear protection. Then, I’d have a spell of pain that would leave me hobbling, and I’d use a poise pad again, to be safe.

I did not *RELY* on the pad to the point that I didn’t bother listening to my body and trying to make it to the bathroom, first. But in an office setting, I wanted to take NO chances of having an accident. I understand Anonymous’ point, and that is why my niece did not use Pull-ups. She was taught that she should just go. But she got more than 30 seconds warning. Believe me, when you know for a fact that the time between “warning,” and physically reaching the toilet is longer than your body can last, it is just silly to forego protection, in order to force yourself to learn control. It wasn’t about control. It was about nerve damage, and until that healed, a little “poise” was allowed.

Now, I wear poise pads when I have a bad cough, or sneezing, or know I am going to watch a comedy, because even though I use the bathroom frequently, as a precaution, I still don’t want to worry about leaks.

As to the suggestion about making all the stalls accessible – I was actually joking, just because I know it isn’t feasible. That’s why I said I knew it wasn’t feasible. However, whenever it IS possible, I certainly think it should be done. Even if you only put in one extra accessible stall, it’s a great idea. Imagine, one of those restrooms with a dozen stalls, and only one of them is accessible. How hard/expensive would it be to plan it, in the first place, to have only 10 stalls, instead, but have two of them be accessible? I think that the more we have mobility challenged people, as well as mothers, studying architecture, the more we will see public restrooms designed with additional accessible stalls. But retrofitting? Not likely.


Joanna March 20, 2013 at 8:28 am

As a handicapped young adult, I prefer the big stall — but never, ever would I dream of expecting it to be free for my use the second I walk into any public restroom! Also, even if I did, I would never be so rude as cuss someone out for it.

Another point — as some others mentioned already, not all disabilities are immediately obvious. I was once yelled at by a bathroom attendance at a state fair, that the handicapped stall was “not for me.” I replied, calmly, “Are you a doctor?” She immediately started apologizing. I found it rather hilarious, as the attendants stand around begging for tips all the while — she sure wasn’t getting one from me!


SusieQ March 24, 2013 at 1:53 am

This exact thing happened to me once – minus the profanity. My handicap is mental – I’m also Aspie PLUS I am claustrophobic and obese. I use the larger stall in places where the regular stall has been (often severely) reduced in size – because I sometimes just can’t “go” in a tiny space. I can’t think of anything but a wish to scream. Obviously this isn’t visible, and I try not to use the large stall if not necessary. I was also yelled at “What’s taking so long?” So I said “Sorry, just putting my back brace back on.”

End of incident. I would not have lied but I thought of it as “educational”. She had to think a bit about her expectations, instead of just howl, plus I didn’t want to engage with a stranger of rude disposition.


MidoriBird April 1, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I was taught to always leave the handicapped stall free unless it was a real emergency (it can happen). That stall is there for a reason, I was told. It is wrong for a handicapped person being forced to wait on someone who takes the stall if there are other unoccupied ones also available.

So, in general, I’ve stuck by what I was taught. It means I’ve probably used the handicapped stall maybe three times in the last (almost) six years I’ve worked at my current job location. I know plenty of others who are not so discrete, but it isn’t my place to lecture about bathroom stall etiquette as I know it.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: