Building Design and Accessible Bathrooms

We left off when I was joining the board of directors at my local YMCA. If you haven’t read part one of this story, check that out first before reading this one.

Design for mobility-impaired individuals

I could now use my years of experience as a wheelchair user to add insight into design features. These features would hopefully help all mobility-impaired individuals to use the Y’s facility with greater ease.

Serving on a nonprofit board comes with a lot of other responsibilities. I won’t bore you with that. I just want to stick to the accessibility aspect.

Just to be clear - when I say Y, I mean my local branch. This doesn’t mean all of the Y’s.

Accessibility features in the locker rooms

The Y was an older building originally built in the 1970s, well before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It originally had a men’s and women’s locker room.

Then the Y added an addition in the 2000s. This addition included boy’s and girl’s youth locker rooms.

These locker rooms included accessibility features. There was also a separate family/ADA locker room added.

When I originally joined the Y, I used the family/ADA locker room exactly one time. The main door into the building was the only door that had an automatic door opener.

Once inside the family/ADA locker room, there were 3 individual bathrooms. Each was equipped with an accessible toilet, shower, and roll-under sink.

Lacking an automatic door in the bathroom

This was great, however, there was one huge glaring problem. No automatic door!

On my 1st day as a member, I found myself stuck inside an accessible bathroom inside the family/ADA locker room. The problem with this locker room was that it was not heavily used during the day.

I waited about 20 minutes before I heard anyone come into this locker room. I called out through the door asking for assistance.

An awkward situation

I immediately felt the awkwardness of the situation. On the other side of the door was a mom with her 2 kids.

Here I am a middle-aged man asking this mom to open a bathroom door while her two kids are standing with her.

I assured her that I was fully dressed and I needed help because I was disabled. I could hear the hesitation in her voice.

Once she cracked open the door and saw me sitting in my scooter, I could tell she was relieved. After this awkward event, I started using the men’s locker room even though it did not have an accessible shower or toilet.

Working to benefit others with disabilities

After officially joining the board of directors, I joined the building and grounds committee. I initially felt out of place.

I was sitting around a table with 2 people who owned construction companies, 2 more people who worked for construction companies and the rest had other experience relating to building maintenance.

While I did not have any experience regarding construction or building maintenance, I knew I was going to be able to give valuable insight into accessibility features that would benefit people with disabilities.

It’s funny how when I started this story in part 1, I wanted to give a little back story. Keep an eye out for part 3. I’ll get to my point.

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