Posted by: sistermom1 | June 19, 2010

Handicapped Bathrooms

Is there an etiquette concerning the use of handicapped bathrooms?

Is there a requirement that outlines the appropriate dimensions of a public handicapped bathroom?

What about those of us whose legs are not yet strong enough to support us?  How should we navigate the commode when people leave pee on the seat?

I ask these questions because I am not quite sure where to go for answers to these real situations that I have experienced in the last month (no lie!):

– I enter a public restroom in a nationwide restaurant.  I find that I cannot enter the handiapped stall in my scooter and close the door to use the toilet privately.  As a result, I have to ask my 10-year old daughter to come and hold the door of the stall closed while I use the facilities.

– I enter a public restroom with several stalls and one (occupied) handicapped stall.  While waiting, another person enters and asks me if I am waiting.  After confirming that yes, I am waiting to use the handicapped stall (did you notice that I am in a scooter?) , the person currently using it speaks up and suggests that I use another open stall instead of waiting.  After sharing (politely!) that I am in a scooter and need the handicapped stall, a woman  with no obvious physical disabilities exits the stall casually, washes her hands and leaves the bathroom without speaking to any of us.

– While waiting to use the facilities after the theatre, several other stalls free up before the handicapped stall opens.  I play traffic cop for about 8-10 minutes, while waiting for the handicapped stall to open.  When it does, an elderly woman with no obvious physical disabilities exits the stall while muttering an apology.

These are a few examples of the kinds of interactions I am having with strangers as I have attempted to use public bathrooms.  I know that everyone who is allowed to use handicapped facilities may not look like they should be able to use one.  Just because someone is able to walk on their own does not mean that they are not handicapped in some other way. 

What about individuals who are not handicapped?  What is the eiquette for them?  If all of the other stalls are full, should they avoid using the handicapped one in case someone who needs it enters the bathroom?  I admit – there were times before I used a scooter that I would use a handicapped stall that was available when the others were full.  I do think about that now, and try not to get bent out of shape when a person who appears fully healthy comes uses a handicapped stall.

Where does all of this leave me?  Asking questions in the middle of an evening out with my husband or family.  Trying to be understanding of whatever situation I find myself in — working hard not to take anything that happens too personally, and remembering that people almost always do the best they can in whatever situations they find themselves.

After the time the stall was too small, my daughter said,  “Mom, we should write a review of the public bathrooms we go to so other people won’t have the same problems that we have had.”  I am thinking about doing it.  For now, I am going to search for answers to my earlier questions, and will keep you posted on my developments.



  1. How about the handicapped stall that doesn’t fit both wheelchair and user with the door closed? And how do you close the door anyway? Your hands are moving the wheelchair and you must go back outside the stall to retrieve the door, pull it in by its little latch, turn the latch and then rotate the chair again.I just figure that the wheelchair will block most of the view and leave the door open. A simple mechanical pulley next to toilet would solve that problem. If only!

    But the biggest crime is that the outside door to the restroom is not automatic. What good is having a handicapped stall when you can’t get into (or out of) the room? I thought the ADA was supposed to make us more independent. Guess not.

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