To the People Who Think It's No Big Deal to Use a Companion Restroom


My 6-foot-tall teenager still needs assistance in a public restroom, and most of the time it’s an exercise in frustration. First, we go into the ladies’ room, where I’ve had more than one person tell me that I cannot bring my son because he’s too old. We cross our fingers for a handicapped stall, which is slightly larger, although not large enough. We squeeze into that stall together, closing the door (that opens into the stall) behind us. Frequently, we squeeze into a regular stall, where I often can’t even close the door completely.

Then recently, the “companion restroom” began to show up in many of the places we visit. From O’Hare Airport to malls to grocery stores and even Disney World.  Hallelujah! I don’t know whose idea these were, but they have been our salvation … except they haven’t.

Here’s the problem: There is usually only one companion restroom. That makes sense based on the statistics of how many people actually need a companion restroom at any given time. But unfortunately, these things are not exclusively used by people who need them.

I cannot count how many times we have rushed to that heavenly door, only to find it occupied. We stand outside waiting, pacing, with my son exclaiming his urgent need. I don’t mind waiting when it’s another family, but about 98 percent of the time when the door opens, a single individual walks out. They seem completely unaware of their infraction and go on about their shopping, having just enjoyed a pleasant private moment in the restroom.

I’m certain that most people who use the companion restroom would not intentionally cause distress for a person with disabilities. I think if they see an empty restroom, they figure, “What’s the harm? No one else is using it.” But that’s not how it works, friend. That’s why I’m writing. If it’s for companions, don’t go in. If it’s a handicapped stall, don’t go in. Leave it empty and accessible, please. When you see an empty handicapped parking space, you wouldn’t park there because it wasn’t being used at that moment. The same philosophy should be applied to restroom facilities.

Those who need accessible toilets may often need them more urgently than you do. Taking your time in a private or larger restroom space may be causing serious distress for another person.

Companion restrooms are my favorite 21st century innovation in public spaces. I look forward to the day they’re found everywhere.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Other

A Thank You Letter to Every NICU Mom Out There

I wrote a little thank you to a couple of my closest friends from our time in the NICU. And as I wrote it out, I realized it could be for anyone. So I want to say a big thank you to every NICU mom out there in the big wide world. Thank you for [...]

To the Person Who Doesn’t Invite Me Because of My Chronic Illness

Certain things might happen with my health, which then have an effect on other parts of my life, specifically in the way people might see or treat me. I wanted to be honest and open about this, because these “situations” I find myself in irritate and upset me. Last year, I was at an event. I had [...]

To the Cashier Who Asked Me, ‘Is He Spoiled?’

The checker at Food Lion judged first with her expression and then with harmful words I never get used to. “Is he spoiled?” she asked, not once but three times, as I couldn’t hear her over the hysterical crying of my son, Amos, strapped in the baby seat of the cart, slightly damp from the [...]

Watch These Newborn Preemie Twins Do Something Incredible in Their Father’s Arms

These twins prove you’re never too young for a little human connection and sibling love. Kristian Ian Rushford and Kristiana Micaela Rushford were born 11 weeks premature in Melbourne, Australia, to Anthea Jackson-Rushford and her husband Glen, the Daily Mail reported. They only weighted about 2 pounds each but the two formed an immediate bond. [...]