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Please Don’t Use the Accessible Bathroom If You Don’t Have a Disability

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Dear “able-bodied” people,

Do you use the accessible stalls in public restrooms even when others are available? If you answered “yes,” please take the time to read this and think twice before you do so again.

First of all, you frustrate me. Why? Because you are physically able to use any stall in the restroom easily, yet choose to use the one stall many people are only able to use.

Service dog in a bathroom.
Service dog in a bathroom.

I can physically use any stall (and try to whenever I can), but not easily and not simply. I am a guide dog handler, so everywhere I go, my 56-pound Labrador retriever comes with me.

Fitting a big dog into a small bathroom stall is no easy task, and many times totally impossible. In order to do so, you and your dog both have to be very coordinated, you need extra time, and heaven forbid any part of the stall or toilet is dirty, because chances are part of you or your dog are going to bump into it.

But the issue with you using a stall you do not need goes way beyond the inconvenience it causes me and other service dog handlers.

I can make that tiny stall work. I can leave my guide dog outside the stall and hope no one bothers her, or worse, steals her, or I can try to squish both of us into the stall and hope we both make it out clean and uninjured. Public bathrooms are gross places. I don’t normally let my guide dog lie down, which can’t be avoided when we have to use a regular stall. Think about it, would you like your dog or child to lay on a nasty bathroom floor?

Here’s the thing, many people cannot use a regular stall at all. They have to use the ADA accessible stall, and that is their only option. The stall was designed specifically for people with physical disabilities who need the extra space and support bars in order to transfer to and use the toilet. It was not designed for you to change clothes, corral your children, or use as your personal pooping place. Many people who need that stall are not able to easily wait for you; they need to go urgently and can’t just use any stall.

Before you walk into the ADA accessible stall again, please think about those who may come into the bathroom after you. Imagine finally finding an accessible bathroom, only to get there and have to wait even longer because someone is in the only stall you can use.

If you or your child has a medical condition or disability that makes using a regular bathroom stall impossible, this post is not directed towards you. This post is directed at people who are fully capable of using a regular stall, yet chose to take the only stall many people can use.

If you see someone who appears to be able-bodied use the ADA accessible stall, never judge their abilities or disabilities based solely on their outward appearance.

P.S. If you are ever in a public restroom and see a service dog sitting outside a stall, please ignore them. It’s stressful enough for their handler to leave them out there, but it’s even more stressful when they can hear someone interacting with their dog and can’t do anything about it.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to 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.

Originally published: May 11, 2016
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