Thursday, April 25, 2013

The inaccessible bathroom

I've written plenty about wheelchair accessible restrooms. How able bodied people use them as lounges, the condition they often leave them in. How I often face rude and crude behavior just trying to get inside and how transferring in and out my wheelchair with my extent of disability sometimes feels like an gymnastics routine and that it often takes time. But there are places that don't have a handicapped bathroom at all. I was reminded of it Tuesday night, when my bladder just wouldn't wait until I got home. I grew up without any accessibility accommodations at our house. Cerebral Palsy gives me some, although limited control over all parts of my body. Quickly I learned how to use the sink and the walls to balance my weight. Where to lean against the toilet seat. Where to grab and when to pull and how to estimate how much energy a particular move would make. To tell you the truth, I had to learn how to take advantage of the grab bars and at what angle to come at them from my wheelchair later on. Years of Conductive Education gave me a better balance. I took pride in being able to use just about any wheelchair unfriendly restroom out there. Yes, sometimes I'd be on my hands and knees or the wheelchair would just roll from underneath me, but I did what I came to do and I was able to go on with my night. A few weeks ago I was at a house party. My friends were concerned about me and how I would make it through the night if I needed to use the restroom. It was an old house and nothing inside felt wheelchair friendly at all. But I was in and out of there in 20 minutes. This however is not what I wanted to talk about. Tuesday night I was in one of the bars that had a restroom that gave me very little to work with. You know the type- the cabin is so small and tight that my wheelchair is just barely able to roll up to the toilet and you can't really close the door. You grab on to whatever you see that you can just for balance. A random piece of wooden wainscot.  I used to be much better at this and I've had more experience when I was younger. But I got heavier and also spoiled by the grab bars everywhere. It would help to have at least one point I can lean against, a single bar but there wasn't none. And you can clearly understand why. That particular bar  was exempt from provisions of Florida accessibility codes. It was grandfathered in- it was there before the law. If they started any construction, any renovation they would have to bring it up to code. And you can see why you wouldn't want to do it. It takes time, it costs money, it involves having to deal with standards and inspections. You'd think that any little thing would be better than having nothing at all, but I can also see how we don't want businesses to simply look like they are accessible when they are not, which what would happen if they put in random bathrooms and  to give venues incentives to do it all at some point. Anyhow, I have been in in that restroom before. I could have used a grab bar when my wheelchair rolled away from me so I decided to stand  up against the door. As I was readjusting my jeans I noticed a man was watching me from the outside as it is. He introduced himself and offered help. I was struggling enough as it is getting the chair aligned but there was no way for him to help me if he didn't know how. It was hot and humid in there and I already worked up a sweat. I really hate having an audience when I try to get back in my chair. I don't like being watched when I need to focus on something, it's like they are rushing me. Finally I pulled myself up using the sink they had out there. I was uncomfortable that somebody was there as I was making those really crucial movements. As I turned around I lost my shoe. As I finally adjusted myself in the sit I said, "I'm not used to meeting people with my pants down" and I laughed. I quickly decided I've earned another drink and I went on with my night.

1 comment:

  1. Add one of these in your "go" bag- (suction cup grab bar). Absolutely great for those places without bars - I like this "bell shaped" one the best because it is small and I can pack 2 of them easily.