I use the disabled toilets

10 Mar

That’s right.  I said it.  I use the disabled toilets.  I also use the family toilets.  And I have no shame about it.

Okay, let me clarify – I use them when Maura’s with me.  Because we tend to tag team in the toilets, and we need that extra room to maneuver about.

Sure, we get the stink eye at times.  Visually, neither of us fit the universal description of “disabled”.  No wheelchair, no leg braces, no walkers.  Just us, on our two legs, seemingly normal.

Granted, at this stage, people see how tall Maura is and back off a little.  Because why does Mom need to follow her obviously tween daughter into a disabled stall unless something more is going on, right?  At least, I hope that’s what people think.  Family bathrooms, well, that gets a little more tricky, because as a society, we’ve deemed them special areas for those with small children or babies.

But let me tell you, I adore family bathrooms!  Especially the family changing room at the pool.  Yes, we could use the locker room, but it’s too big and Maura wanders while I’m in a state of undress that may not allow me chasing her down.  The family changing room?  I can lock her in, stand by the door and change, all is good!

And yet, I will feel like the world is judging us for using these special facilities, because we don’t fit the visual requirements to use them.  Don’t worry, this doesn’t keep me up at night, and if anyone gives me a stink eye, I’m ready with a stink eye of my own that states “Ask me, I dare you!”

Not too long ago, Maura was still in pull ups.  She wasn’t potty trained, and pull ups were the only diaper-like thing that fit her properly.  Back then, getting the biggest stall possible was a very real necessity.  I had to plan outings and outfits around if I’d have to change her.  Pants were terrible, because you’d have to take off shoes, then pants, then pull up, then put them all back on again.  If she pooped while we were out, then that led to the choice of “Do I try this standing up and not do a good job, or do I lay her on the floor and pray we don’t get dysentery?”

Because those were my choices.

Those are many parents choices.

That was my choice when we went to Legoland.  I remember it clearly.  It was a huge disabled bathroom, a room all unto itself.  I was giddy with the space.  But I also realized that there was no place for Maura to lay down to be changed except the floor.  So, I took some paper towels, laid them under her head, and prayed we wouldn’t end up with dysentery as I laid her down on the cleanest area of the floor (aka, the corner furthest from the toilet.)

I am so well-versed on all of this because when we went out as a family, it almost always fell upon me to deal with Maura’s diaper changes in public.  Because what’s less friendly than a ladies bathroom when trying to change a diaper on a nine year old?  Why, that would be the men’s room of course!  If there is anyone who is more desperate for a family bathroom than me, it’s my husband when he’s out with Maura.  Now imagine you’re the mom of a twelve year old boy with disabilities who doesn’t look obviously disabled…

Yeah.

These days with Maura, we just need room for two.  Sometimes, I can let her use a stall by herself even while I wait outside the door like any other mom.  But I have also been the mom waiting in a line of women saying “No, go ahead, we’re waiting for the big stall.”  I’ve been the mom who has scoped out a bathroom floor looking for the cleanest corner.  I was the mom, just last week, who got giddy at the sight of a large disabled-friendly bathroom on an airplane – because I was the mom who had to change her 9 yr old daughter’s wet pants in a “standard” sized airplane toilet.  And let me tell you, as that went down, all I could think of was the scene in “Tommy Boy” with Chris Farley trying to change in the airplane toilet – literally at times.

Actually, that scene sort of sums up trying to change Maura in all sorts of situations…

…anyway…

There needs to be something more done.  Having a slightly wider stall with hand grips doesn’t cut it for a huge portion of the disabled community.  We need more.  We need space.  We need options other than the floor to take care of things.  And we need the public to realize that so many disabilities aren’t seen.

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9 Responses to “I use the disabled toilets”

  1. PigLove March 10, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Amen! Well said – bravo bravo. Who are peeps to judge anywho? Mom and dad LOVE the family bathrooms. They are fantastic! Daddy has a visual disability that you wouldn’t ‘see’ per say just looking at them walking. Family bathrooms are awesome! Daddy doesn’t have to feel the walls to find the toilet and mom can keep an eye on him. There needs to be a LOT more of these put in places. I’m all for them. And if you take the ‘handicapped stall’ and you get an evil eye stare, you just bring me the next time. This little oinker will get them! Snorts. Bravo my friend. XOXO – Bacon

  2. Laurie March 10, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    I get so excited when I get a notification that you wrote another blog post! My daughter is also 12 and could be Maura’s twin! You write about my life in every post and I end up sending to link to friends and family so they can get a little glimpse into my life a about things that they may not realize are daily adventures for us. I texted my husband this one and I simply typed “Yep!” and his response was “Wow! No kidding!” Thank you so much for using your writing talent to put into words the things that a lot if us cannot! Reading your post is a bright spot in my day!

    • phoebz4 March 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

      aw thanks! That means a lot!

  3. 90maz March 10, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    http://www.changing-places.org/ It’s a shame these guys aren’t campaigning on your side of the pond!

    • phoebz4 March 10, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      I was looking for that! I saw that campaign a year or so ago and thought it was brilliant. We need that here!

      • 90maz March 10, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

        start small and local…. 😉

  4. Carol C March 10, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

    You are doing a fabulous job as a mother. No one has the right to judge you and you just need to hold your head up and let them know you have no guilt because this is what you are going to do. I don’t think there are any laws that say only handicapped people are allowed to use handicapped accessible stalls. Handicapped parking is a different matter. You are absolutely right that we need to make spaces available for families like yours to change a diaper on a person larger than a toddler. That sounds like a battle worth fighting. Just don’t feel like other people are judging you. Even if they are, it doesn’t mean you are in the wrong, it means they don’t have (or need to have) all the facts. I think this falls under Ragen Chastain’s Underpants rule (pun intended):
    “The Underpants Rule is simple: everyone is the boss of their own underpants so you get to choose for you and other people get to choose for them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do.” Do your best and be proud of how good it is. Throw in a glass of wine to celebrate how good (or bad) it is & kee on keeping on.

    I love your blog. I don’t have a disabled child, but I have worked with them and I can see Maura in every situation you describe. You have a way with words.

  5. Katie March 11, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    You are using family bathrooms … the way family bathrooms were designed to be used!

    Issues occur when there are NO family bathrooms — when, for example, a mom brings a “too big” boy into the ladies’ changeroom — and the issues that result tend to be doozies.

    While I’ve got no issues with a “too big” boy in the ladies changeroom at my local community center (read: boy with developmental delay accompanied by mom ONLY), the vast majority my neighborhood do… for religious reasons. My neighborhood (and thus folks who belong to my community center) are 99% ultra-Orthodox Jewish, ie women in shaitels, men with beards, ankle to wrist clothes for both. Post-upsherin boys in the ladies’ changeroom are a non-starter.

    The folks at the community center are, to a person, lovely and my kids have many friends there — but marching on into ladies room with a big boy (or men’s room with a big girl), well, you can’t.

  6. Josephine March 12, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    This is one of my daughter’s ’causes’. There needs to be access to adult size change tables. Our grandson is on the verge of becoming too big (& already too heavy for some) for baby change tables. She often does the floor thing, and if she has to, she will do it behind chairs or whatever, with whoever is with her standing guard. He is always going to need a change area; so soon it may just be a matter of not being able to take him out for any length of time.
    Like Carol, at least over here, my understanding was that the situation with handicapped toilets was different to carparks. I am pretty sure some places only have one toilet, and have it set up as a handicapped toilet. A handicapped toilet is an extra – not set aside for the handicapped only (though of course it is only fair not to use it if you don’t have to).

    There was outcry (in defense of hidden disabilities) in our local community when an elderly man wrote to the local paper complaining about a mother and perfectly able looking child (not toddler) spending a huge amount of time in the disability toilet (when he needed it). Given his description of the episode it seemed clear that a disability must have been involved. I was going to write “why do you think they needed so long” – but there was no need – enough people wrote.

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