Frustrations Around Able-Bodied People Using the Accessible Bathrooms

If you’re following along, this is Part 4 of my story. The first three articles are linked below:

The event that prompted this long story was that I had to wait recently for one of the accessible bathrooms in the new universal locker room at the YMCA that I belong to.

The universal locker room contains two wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. About a month after the grand opening, the built-in shower bench in one of the wheelchair-accessible bathrooms broke.

An able-bodied person in the only accessible bathroom

Well after one of my sessions in the pool, I came into the locker room to shower and get changed and the lone working accessible bathroom was occupied. I am not the only member who uses a wheelchair at our Y.

I waited for about 25 minutes and out walked a healthy ambulatory lady. I am not a confrontational person. The lady looked at me and smiled, oblivious to what just happened.

Sharing feedback about this experience

I was annoyed, but I didn’t have any place to be after, so I let the incident go. As I walked into the Y the following week, I bumped into the COO (Chief Operating Officer).

We hadn’t seen each other since before the pandemic started so we took a few moments to catch up. She’s really good at checking in with members, asking if everything is ok.

I brought up the previous week’s incident. I asked her if they could add a sign right on the doors to the accessible bathrooms.

She started to apologize which I always find funny. She wasn’t the one who took the bathroom.

Accessibility issues happen constantly

I run into these accessible type issues on a weekly basis. I started to chuckle as she apologized, letting her know that this sort of thing, unfortunately, happens elsewhere.

She told me that she would have a sign added to the doors and let me know that they were waiting on a new bench for the other accessible bathroom.

After my session in the pool, I got into the locker room, and would you believe it, the accessible bathroom was again occupied. All of the other ones were empty.

I felt like I was in a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode. I began to wait for over 20 minutes. I begin to purposely be a little loud.

I was in my electric scooter. I am sure this person can hear me rolling by the door to the bathroom.

The situation happened again

Once the water was off to the shower I even said to my girlfriend, who is also my PCA “The other wheelchair accessible bathroom is still closed for repairs, right?” We knew it was but I know this person inside the bathroom could hear us and I was hoping they would speed up their process.

Well, I was wrong. They spent a good 5 or 6 minutes blow-drying their hair. Now I’m waiting and I am hoping that I won't encounter 2 ignorant people within a week.

The door quickly opens and out walks a healthy woman. My girlfriend and I were once again flabbergasted.

How should we handle these scenarios?

The younger me would have probably been confrontational. I wanted to say something, but I also didn’t want to start a fight.

At that moment I was definitely in a fighting mood. I also have served on the Board of Directors there so I never want to jeopardize the Y.

I am curious as to how you handle this sort of thing? I have thought about it and will be prepared when this happens again. We all know it will!

If you’re an able-bodied person reading this story, please don’t use accessible bathrooms.

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