Why North Carolina's HB2 Hurts People With Disabilities, Too

I am sure by now most people are aware of what is happening in North Carolina. The state’s new law, HB2, prohibits people identified as transgender from using the bathroom of their preference, and requires them to use a restroom based on the gender they were assigned on their birth certificate.

For me this issue is simple. Please let people go to the restroom in whichever one makes them comfortable. This bill is based on nothing but hate. Just let people pee and wash their hands of it (a little restroom humor). There are many people with disabilities in the transgender community. They should be allowed to use the bathroom that fits their needs, and so should I.

You may ask yourself, why I am taking the time to write an article like this on a site about disability? Today I read an article about the restroom issues facing the disabled community, and how we should be focused on “this instead of that.” I think we should recognize that this event in history is an opportunity to open up meaningful dialogues about appropriate restroom accommodations and modifications for all. We need to take this time to support, engage and teach others about what could make life easier—in the restroom.

Even if you can’t relate to the struggle facing the LGBT community, can you relate to the sheer embarrassment of going into a restroom that makes your life harder instead of easier? There are restrooms I cannot use because they aren’t made to accommodate me. Why shouldn’t we all want the right to be accommodated?

As a young adult who uses a walker and wheelchair to get around, restrooms have
always “fallen short” of my expectations, and sometimes created more issues than solutions. The stalls are cramped, the one accessible stall seems to always be in use, and there’s never enough room to turn my walker around. There are also people who have caregivers and loved ones of the opposite sex who assist them in the restroom. Does this mean a person with a disability in North Carolina will not get the care they need in the restroom?

I have felt embarrassment in restrooms because they don’t have stalls that are accessible in rural Iowa. Sometimes, accidents can occur, and I am not afraid to admit that, but public restrooms need to do a better job of accommodating and modifying for the human beings that use them, so no one should feel embarrassed when they use
a restroom. It makes me feel anxious, nervous, and angry for not being
able to use the restroom like everyone else.

I am not sure why there aren’t more accessible stalls, more stalls with hand rails, and generally stalls with more space. Everyone uses the accessible stalls anyway; why not just have better stalls for everyone? I think as a society we need to have everyone be part of this discussion. I am glad I live in a time where we can have open discussions about our restroom needs and continue to make strides to improve quality of life and overall happiness.

So start a conversation about your restroom needs today. Organize a rally, and encourage restroom awareness, because it’s obvious that restrooms need to change with society. Let’s always encourage compassion, understanding, and improvement when we are discussing restroom issues, whether it’s about LGBT or disability rights — or both.

Wheelchair accessible public restroom.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. 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.

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