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What to Know If You're an Able-Bodied Person Using the Accessible Restroom Stall

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To those who don’t understand why it’s important to leave the disability stall open for people who need it:

You need to use the restroom just like anyone else. There are six stalls as you walk in, one of which is the disability-accessible stall. There is no one else in the restroom, and yet you still choose the stall made big enough for those with disabilities who are unable to use the stalls made for able-bodied people. You come out and wonder why there is a disabled person waiting patiently for you to be done when there are five other stalls vacant.

Don’t get me wrong, if the restroom is packed and it’s the only stall available, I am not going to get mad about it. I know the changing station is often located in that stall, so if you have a child, I am not going to get mad about that either. But if there are more stalls in the restroom than there are people, and you choose the only stall I am able to use, I am not going to be happy. That large stall is not there for your convenience to change in or to have extra room while you pull your pants up. That stall is there for people who need it. If you do not have a legitimate reason, please consider this before you use it.

I have a task-trained service dog that is trained to mitigate several disabilities. He is my medical equipment in the same way someone who is paralyzed uses a wheelchair or an elderly person uses a walker. Unfortunately, he and I both do not fit in the small stalls I used to fit in before I became disabled and got him. We have to use the stall designed for people with disabilities.

It is humiliating to stand in the restroom with five other stalls, waiting for the only one I can use to be available. People who don’t get it often look at me like I’m weird for standing there waiting when there are five other stalls. I have had to stand in line when in reality there is no line, just me standing there while everyone else gets to go who came in after me because they are able to use the small stalls and a non-disabled person is in the only stall I can use.

Not all disabilities are visible like mine — and there’s no way of knowing from the outside who actually needs an accessible disability stall. Maybe someone has chronic pain and need to utilize the bars for help sitting down and getting up. I do not look at someone and try to pass judgment on whether they have a right to be using the accessible stall. But you know if you really need it or not — and if you knowingly use it while there are countless other stalls available, you could be accidentally contributing to the disability community feeling shunned and lesser than. Sometimes we can’t even use the restroom in a timely manner because we have to wait for someone who just wanted the extra room to come out. My problem is with the people who come walking out acting like there is nothing wrong with a disabled woman waiting for the only stall that is taken out of six total.

Let me be honest in saying that before my conditions became disabling, I used the disability stall, even when others were available. I saw nothing wrong with it and I always got irritated when the woman in the wheelchair waiting for me to come out would give me a dirty look. Now I know why she used to give me a dirty look. There was absolutely no reason for her to have to wait for that stall.

If you are able-bodied and don’t need to use the disability stall, please think twice before using it. It is not there for you, it is there for the people who need it.

The disability stall is there for us, not for your convenience.

Editor’s note: Based on feedback from The Mighty’s community, this piece has been edited to better reflect the author’s message.

This story originally appeared on Understanding Chaos.

Getty image by BenDC

Originally published: February 17, 2020
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