Monday, December 8, 2014

People who get it, people who so don't


Saturday, I took Max to an event at a museum. I had encounters with two strangers who more or less embody the range of people I've met since becoming a parent of a kid with special needs.

Max and I headed to the bathroom. The four empty stalls were on the small side, and I have to go in with him to help. The stall for people with disabilities was occupied, and the person inside was taking their sweet time. Max kept doing the potty shuffle, shifting from one foot to the other. Finally, a young woman emerged and walked over to the sink. No apparent physical disabilities.

I glared at her.

"The problem with using a stall for people with disabilities if you don't have one is that if someone disabled comes into the bathroom, you force them to wait," I said.

She looked at me, startled.

"Why are you upset?" she asked.

"Because my son, who requires assistance, had to wait when there are four empty stalls you could have used," I replied.

"You could have knocked!" she responded.

If Max hadn't had to go urgently I would have explained the problem with her logic, but I just grabbed his hand and went into the stall.

And then: There was an area in the museum where kids could roll around on floor scooters. Max stood there, watching. The attendant asked if he wanted to try. Max had a hard time getting the hang of it. I helped steer him as the guy offered pointers. At one point, I left Max and headed to the cashier to pay—the ride cost three bucks—but the guy stopped me.

"That's OK, he's just trying it out," he said. "The exercise is good for him."

"That is so nice of you, but I'm going to pay because he is using a scooter," I said, and I did.

Later, Max returned. "He can try it some more," the attendant said. And he let him go and go to his heart's content. And Max did get how to do it, and I gave the attendant a big smile and he smiled happily, too.


There are people who understand that kids with disabilities need a little extra accommodating. And there are people who seem to have no sense that people with disabilities need a little extra accommodating, or who just don't care.

People who get it. People who don't.

I'm lucky to be mostly surrounded by people who get it, or who are open-minded to getting it.

And I will always open my mouth to people who don't...until the day comes, hopefully, when Max can stand up for himself. 

80 comments:

  1. The law only requires the adaptive stall be provided, not that it be reserved for your personal use
    Would you have glared if it had been me in the stall helping Addie---Max would have been inconvenienced for the same amount of time (and probably much longer as it takes forever when Addie needs to have a bowel movement.)
    Maybe the young lady really needed to go when she came in and the other stalls were full----maybe she had a bladder infection, maybe she has a urinary diversion device and needs the extra room to empty it
    A little compassion and understanding for others please

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    1. Um, no, I would have gotten that you were in there helping someone.

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    2. Easter Seals did a great post on disability etiquette including when it's ok to use the accessible stall. According to Easter Seals, its ok to use the accessible stall if no one is waiting for it. Because not all disabilities are visible, they suggested asking ladies in the cue if they are waiting for it and if not, go right ahead. The accessible stall is not just for people with disabilities but they should get first crack at it.

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    3. I think you're being hypersensitive here. Most people understand that they should give priority to a disabled person, but it's not unreasonable for you to let the person know there is someone who needs the stall waiting. It's very common for workers to change in and out of work clothes in these bigger stalls, for example, or for parents with typical small children who need to go in together to do so. And I agree with the other poster that it's a huge assumption that someone doesn't have a disability--For example, a knee or back issue that makes lowering far enough for the regular seat painful, even if there is no overt and obvious brace or something.

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  2. Sure she made assumptions about the young lady, and could have misinterpreted, but general societal behavior and the young lady's reaction suggest that she was right in her assumptions...

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  3. This is a hard one. It's my understanding, like Mary Sullivan stated above, that the adaptive stall be provided and that it's allowed to be used by others. Also, there are special needs that aren't readily seen, such as a young relative of mine who would need that adaptive stall for catheter use. If she came out of the stall, one would never know she had special needs at all and if someone glared at her, I'd be pretty upset. On the other hand, I can see where it would be annoying if I had used the stall and came out, only to discover that someone who truly needed that stall was waiting for it. Yet...on the other hand...it would be silly of someone to NOT use the stall if she were the only one in the restroom at the time. So...this is still a hard one. Having a special needs son, though, I understand. Truly, I do.

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  4. How do you know the young woman had no disability?

    My cousin frequently got treated just the way you treated this young woman. He was in his late 20s early 30s. Looked healthy as all get out, unless you knew him before the 3 heart attacks. He was on the heart transplant list. He needed the rail to steady himself sometimes.

    My sister gets the same treatment. What people can't see is that 10 years ago she broke both knees. Once up she moves with out problems but getting up and down she needs the rails.

    You hate it when people question you about Max's needs - guess what other people don't like it when you give them the ninth degree. My sister would have reacted much the same way as the young woman because it is none of your business why she needs that stall. You don't get to decide who is and is not disabled.

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  5. Ellen,

    I am a long time reader and have to agree with the other posters here. I understand that you reacted in the heat of the moment, you had a child who needed to use the rest room and the stall was occupied, but you of all people should understand that not all disabilities are visible.

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  6. Judging by her behavior, I don't think she truly needed the stall. However, I do not know her and cannot judge. I'm sure I get dirty looks because I test in resource and I am in multiple honors classes. I bet someone thinks that I do not need services and that my honors classes and participation in two bands is proof. I get it because I live it.

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  7. I'm curious if you ever used the handicapped stall in a restroom before you ever had a child with special needs? People aren't perfect and not everyone has to "get it" (though it would be nice if more people did) and until you live it or know someone personally who is living it, it's nearly impossible to fully "get". It doesn't make the person using that stall, one which as far as I understand, they have every right to use, an insensitive jerk who requires a lecture on public bathroom etiquette. And I agree with most of the other comments here, why are you so certain this girl did not need to use that particular bathroom stall? Isn't that judgement a little hypocritical?

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    1. Yes, I have used a stall for people with disabilities in airport bathrooms with a very long line. And if I had ever come out to find a person waiting for that stall, I would have apologized profusely instead of retorting, "You could have knocked!" This isn't about being perfect. It's about having the decency to not use the one and only restroom geared toward people with disabilities in an otherwise empty bathroom in an otherwise empty part of the museum.

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  8. I'm totally confused by this one. Since the young woman was in the stall a long time how in the world do you know that the other stalls weren't occupied when she went in? What if she were having some stomach distress and needed to stay in there for a good long time? Did she really need to explain her personal digestive issues to you? And it wasn't like she said "Your kid needs to wait like everyone else?" or something else rude. She said you could have knocked and told her you needed it. This seem to indicate to me she was willing to switch stalls now that there were clearly free ones which seems a more than appropriate response. Why were so angry. Is it your position no one without a disability should ever use a handicapped stall?

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  9. I have terrible knee arthritis and need the grab-bars and higher seat the handicapped stall provides. I have been glared at so often, I feel guilty for using that which I need. I am at the point where I can no longer help my 12 y/o daughter with severe disabilities. When my husband has to help her in the bathroom, we get judged again. It happened just yesterday, when we took her to see the Nutcracker Ballet. I can be a battle to maintain the cheerfulness that led us to go out in the first place.

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  10. I'm Anonymous 9:57 a.m. I think you are all making valid comments -- if someone needs it, they shouldn't feel like they're being judged. But I think we are straying from the intended point. I am able-bodied, and so are most of the people I know. Given the choice between using a regular stall and the larger one, we should think ahead and be considerate and use the smaller one. That's all. It's about being educated, and then about being considerate. (To be fair, a lot of the glares are probably because people have been educated that the stalls should be left for those who need them when possible -- apparently a double-edged sword when the disability is not visible...) Thank you all for educating me and others.

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  11. I think it was Ellen feeling she can decide who gets to use which stall in a public restroom
    My sister is a large lady--she is not disabled but she has difficulty moving in a regular stall and will use the big stall if it is available She has been told off a few times--once by a women in a wheelchair who told her to get her fat *** out of there
    I take care of a child with special needs--she is a little girl with Down Syndrome and understand the need for accommodations but also feel it is important to treat everyone with respect--my sister should not be singled out in the ladies room b/c she is overweight
    There seems to be a trend on some of the special parents blogs--there was another parent's blog which told people with disabled parking plates not to use them b/c she needed them more for her child and she suggested the exercise would do these people some good. I know someone's doctor has to recommend those plates and don't think this mother should try to decide who needs them

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  12. To those of you who have family members or friends with invisible disabilities, I apologize. This was a situation in which we were in a pretty empty area of the museum. The entire bathroom was empty, except for us and this other woman in the stall for people with disabilities. And yes, I did judge and yes, I shouldn't have. But based on her response, she did not have a disability. And it is pretty egregious to tell a person with a disability to knock on the door of a stall that is intended for them.

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    1. You do not know that the entire bathroom was empty when this young woman entered it. She might have had an emergency and every other stall was full at the time. Even if it was not, you still have no right to tell ANYONE - disabled or not - that they cannot use a toilet. Your son is capable of using a regular toilet but you prefer the larger one because you go in to help him with things like taking down, pulling up pants. You seem to take a lot of liberties and then enjoy having something to b***h about.

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  13. Ditto the family restroom!

    I get peeved when I'm waiting and waiting for the large stall (which while it's supposed to be reserved for folks with disabilities is often the stall with the changing table, and thus becomes de facto 'family restroom') and the person in there is just reveling in spaciousness.

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  14. I go in the big stall with my daughter all the time and neither one of us has a disability, but it saves time for us if we go in together, and depending on where we are, sometimes it soothes her insecurity. We can't fit together in a small stall. I have also used the big stall alone, and I just don't think you can tell people which stall to use. Sometimes people have to wait to use the bathroom. Any parent knows that. Any person without a kid knows that. You can't expect an empty stall just because your son is disabled. That seems ridiculous, and I agree with everyone else that your righteous anger over this feels entitled beyond what is reasonable. I don't think it's about "getting it" or not getting it. If you had entered the bathroom at the same time and she took the accessible stall, THAT would have been rude. But any person walking into an empty bathroom is going to choose the big stall every time. You can't blame anyone for trying to be comfortable in the bathroom. Maybe bathroom stalls should be bigger. Or there should be a completely separate bathroom for the disabled that requires a key. I don't know. This just rubs me the wrong way. Wrong enough that I thought I would say something. And I usually don't comment on blog posts.

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    1. To me, it just seems like basic human decency to not use a stall geared toward people with disability if there are a bunch of other empty stalls and you do not have a physical disability. And I sincerely doubt that you're right when you say that "any person walking into an empty bathroom is going to choose the big stall every time." I think there are a lot of us who WOULD leave that stall empty. I felt the same before I had a child with disability too; it's how I was raised. And if I'd seen a mom and child coming out of the stall, I would have been more understanding. But that wasn't what happened.

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    2. I totally agree with Ellen here...just because it is convenient for you, you can't do something if you know it might be a inconvenience or even requirement for someone else...you can't make laws everywhere and for everything..sometimes it is just upto us to be nice to each other...this is like letting a pedestrian cross the road.

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  15. I see both sides of the coin. Now that I have a little one that needs assistance and most likely will for sometime, I do secretly get annoyed when someone with no visible disabilities takes up the accessible stall. However, I think back to my personal experience. I've had three major back surgeries. After each one, I had to use the accessible stall because I needed the assistance of the grab bars. No one could have possibly known that especially since I appeared young and fit.

    I try not to judge. But, I admit. Sometimes my frustration at the situation does get the better of me and secretly I curse under my breath.

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    1. I'm not sure how I feel about this one. Ellen, it seems as though you are suggesting that bathroom stall usage should be handled in the same manner as parking spaces, i.e. that the disability stall should be left empty unless one has a disability. This is certainly the case for the disability parking spot but I'm not sure that, as a society, we approach bathroom stalls the same way. If someone from another country or planet asked me what's the deal with bathroom stalls, I would say: we wait our turn on line until a stall is free. When the next stall is free, you step up and use it. However, if the next stall is the disability stall, take a look at the line before you step in. If there is no one waiting for the larger disability stall, then you use it. I would.

      From your story, it sounds as though the woman in question was in the stall *before* you and Max entered the ladies room. Unless another person with a disability was on line, I don't believe this woman was in the wrong. Whether or not she "took her sweet time" is really speculation. Her response to you (startled, defensive) may have come from the way you approached her.

      If you really feel that the disability stall should never be used by the non-disabled, I suggest you write a more fleshed-out article on this topic and see what the response is. There have been many changes made in our society at large that seemed irrational to the non-disabled community (such as making every public building wheelchair-accessible) until "other" voices were heard. However, as things stand now, I don't believe this woman was in the wrong if she entered the stall before you and Max entered the Ladies' Room.

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    2. My take is: The disability stall shouldn't be used if there are empty stalls and you don't have a disability. Period.

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  16. I had an experience in a public restroom where a woman using a walker was waiting to use the large stall. There was a long line and people were going in the large stall ahead of her while those waiting could also go in the other stalls where her walker couldn't fit. I finally stopped the next person in line and asked, "Can she go in there next? That's the only stall she can use." Thankfully she complied but i was really surprised by the cluelessness. I will admit. If no one appears to need it and there if no other stall, I will go in the large one but I will gladly wait if there is someone else there.

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    1. Why did this woman deserve to be pulled out of line and placed in front of everyone else just because she had a walker? When her turn came then she would have used the larger stall. Having a disability does not mean that you get to walk in front of everyone else. You don't know if the people who were in front of her were desperately waiting their turn or had hidden disabilities. It was very rude of YOU to put her needs in front of everyone elses. She should have had to wait for her turn in line just like everyone else.

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    2. sandnsons did right. It was the right thing to do.

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    3. As i mentioned that woman was allowing other people to go ahead of her as other stalls opened because he couldn't go anywhere else except the large stall. The way the bathroom was configured people were basically cutting her off from getting into the restroom. She had more than waited her turn because others that were behind her originally had already come and gone.

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    4. I agree, sandnsons made sure the right thing happened. But God forbid we're a society that lets a woman with a walker cut the line I guess we should also let the moms of little ones doing the potty dance wait their fair turn (I always let them cut ahead of me, but I'm horrible like that.)

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    5. It should have been her choice. Did you ask her if she wanted you to intervene for her. Maybe she wanted to be in line. Maybe she hates standing out. Maybe being in line makes her feel normal. And yea, maybe she went along with you, but maybe she just can't stand a scene.
      I have a visible disability and people have done this stuff to me. I hate it. I also have anxiety issues and I'd literallly rather stand in line all day than have strangers decide what i need and then act on it. I gett embarrassed and my anxiety ramps up until i feel like my head will shoot off.
      Chances are people with disabilities are perfectly able to ask for what they need, so I personally think we should just be allowed to wait or whatever.....but if you feel compelled to insert yourself, please ask first and respect the answer.

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    6. No, sandnson, you said:

      "There was a long line and people were going in the large stall ahead of her while those waiting could also go in the other stalls where her walker couldn't fit. I finally stopped the next person in line and asked, "Can she go in there next? That's the only stall she can use."

      The way this is worded implies that there was a line of people waiting their turn to go into the next available toilet stall, which is the normal, acceptable practice and that this woman was in the line behind other people who were waiting. You said that you stopped other people who were ahead of her in line who were simply going into the next available stall that opened up like they were supposed to do. Now suddenly the bathroom configuration prevented her from entering and that she was intentionally allowing other people to go in front of her because the "regular" stalls were open and she did not want to use those. She was waiting for the person in the larger stall to finish. She was not beings shoved aside by women rushing past her to choose the larger stall. She was waiting for a stall she specifically chose to open up. There was nothing wrong being done here.

      As to phoebeholmes.com ... If ANYONE comes in and says "it's an emergency can I please cut in line" then 99% of people will let them. But for you to say someone should get preference simply because they have kids or a disability is BS. You do not know if someone waiting in that line has IBS or Chrohn's disease and was desperate to get into that stall but too embarrassed to speak up so they were waiting their turn. You do not know that someone had just started their period and needed to get in there. For YOU to self-appoint as the toilet police tells me that you have the same syndrome ellen has. You both, along with many of the cackling hens here, have the "I'M THE MOST IMPORTANTEST PERSON IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD BECAUSE I'M SPECIAL/HAVE A SN KID" . The beauty of Equality (something you all scream about and demand to have) is that everyone is treated the same. You people do not truly want Equality. You people want Superiority. There is a huge difference between the two.

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  17. It does seem odd that she chose the large stall when the other ones were available, but I don't know her motivation either. I understand why you were upset and it is hard to explain to your kiddo that you need to wait. I have that problem with my son who is toilet training (he has Down syndrome) and when he needs to go, he needs to go. It is hard to fit in the smaller stalls, but we do it because we can right now. He is small, but he won't be forever (I'm hoping he'll be trained by the time he gets to be a big kid!).

    I have a bigger issue with the family restrooms that are available. I've waited in line with my son for the family one and out comes a single gal or a group of ladies or a single dude. What's wrong with THAT picture? It's clearly labeled a family bathroom and I'm trying to take my kid in there who is going to need a lot of help and some time as well. Instead some fools are in there for no good reason, in my opinion. It would never cross my mind as a single person going to the restroom to use the family one--ever! It's for families. Period.

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    1. I hear you regarding the use of family restrooms by single people. Not once, but twice I ran into that problem at the Chicago airport this summer. My disabled 12 year old son was on the verge of a meltdown as we waited for the family restroom to become free and both times out walked a single lady. I'm not sure I can have any sympathy about them wanting privacy or whatever--go to the ladies' room!

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    2. Maybe she needed things in the family stall not provided by regular restroom.

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    3. Nope, all restrooms at the airport are fully equipped with accessible stalls. Family restrooms are for when more than one person needs to go into a stall.

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  18. I have often been tempted to bring my handicapped placard from my car to place on restroom doors. No, I do not necessarily "look" handicapped---however that looks. I do use the larger restroom stall when it is available and sometimes hang my cane outside the door. Looks can be deceiving!

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  19. I don't know. I will avoid the large stall if I can, but I would never in million years take it upon myself to confront the person coming out of it. When you say "And yes, I did judge and yes, I shouldn't have. But based on her response, she did not have a disability. And it is pretty egregious to tell a person with a disability to knock on the door of a stall that is intended for them." -- does that mean you think you were justified? Seems like you're judging her twice, once for using the stall and once for not explaining to you. And she doesn't owe you an explanation.

    I can get very flustered in a confrontation, and speak off the top of my head. Especially if it's something personal and embarassing. I get that it's much much easier to just go "what a bitch" but you never, ever know.


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  20. Holy moly I cannot believe these comments! If that girl had a reason to use the larger stall, she would have said it. I hope that you stand by original position and do the same thing in the future, God knows I would. It is cracking me up that all these people are giving this unknown person the benefit of the doubt and they will not cut you one inch of slack. Ridiculous.

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  21. someone could have look at you an wonder why u were in there with your son as we look typical sn just becuse she didn't look like she didn't have anything wrong didn't mean she didn't done have medical Iusse like they were a thing to pee as they can't go reg maybe need to change it can't use a reg one I have friends that have medical Iusse you wount no looking at them if we want other to understand us we have to be the same way I never assume anything unless it supper obvious that there nothing going on

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  22. I absolutely cannot abide you harassing that young woman for using the accessible stall. Ever. She saw you waiting, she probably guessed she held you up. I cannot believe you almost bragged about it here. I've read your blog for a long time and you seem very reasonable, so maybe you slipped up, but then to detail it on your blog? Really? I've been harassed by someone coming out of the accessible stall while I was waiting for it. I have to use it, it is not safe for me to use a different stall. Not only was I humiliated, but I was afraid of using the bathroom for nearly a week because of her.
    And Joanne- she very well may not have said it. I've been rudely confronted by a person about my using the accessible stall and they are the absolute LAST person I would ever disclose a medical condition to. It is nobody's business unless I choose to share it. And I'm not about to defend my use of an accommodation to anyone, especially someone who is rude to me. SMH.

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  23. Your apology rings hollow. Not only might the lady have had an invisible disability, but you assume that her response to you was an admission that she did not have a disability. Perhaps she did not want to have a confrontation in a public setting. Perhaps, for her sake and for that of your son, she did not wish to engage with an irate individual accosting her in a restroom. I have an invisible disability and I am sick to death of holier-than-thou people who would seek to shame me. I would not have responded to you as your behavior was completely rude and my disability is, frankly, none of your business. No one owes you an explanation. As you had enough time to glare at this woman and make snarky comments, it would seem that Max was not in such an urgent state to use the restroom. Perhaps you can use this as a learning experience, for Max, but also for yourself. Do not judge people based on their outward appearance, never make assumptions about a person's abilities or lack thereof and a person's health situation is private.

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  24. If they did not want to wait for the larger stall the boy could have used a regular stall.
    Mom could have left the door open and stood in front of him. She did say no one else was there, so there would have been enough privacy
    It was NONE of her BUSINESS as to why the other lady was in the big stall.

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  25. I actually HAVE an invisible disability and I don't use the handicapped stall for myself.

    Those of us with actual invisible disabilities are usually pretty open about it - we get challenged constantly so we get used to oversharing with nosey strangers. If for some reason I came out of an accessible stall to be confronted by a woman with a child with a noticeable disability who looked annoyed that I was in the accessible stall I would blurt out "Sorry, I have an invisible disability".
    I'd also say the same thing to a mom with a child who needed a diaper change, or a mom with a few kids on a potty trip - all NEED that stall for a genuine reason.

    "You could have knocked" is the response of someone who is embarrassed and lashing out, trying to transfer the blame to the person who caught them, red-handed, being selfish.

    Disability accommodations are for those who NEED to use them - not for those who WANT to use them.

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    1. Do you mean that on the days when my arthritis is very bad I should not use the stall with the railing because I am not diagnosed with something like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome etc?
      Are you serious?
      Why does this child deserve the accessible stall more than anyone else with a problem, regardless of what his mother thinks

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    2. no Sandra, you are entitled to it as much as Max. It seems the women's response was just as much fuel for Ellen's post as her action. Like Karen said the vast majority of people with an invisible disability would not have reacted in such a way. The more common response would be "I have an invisible disability (or health issues)" "Sorry" "That's ok"

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    3. No Sandra Wilson, I "did not mean that". I said nothing of the sort.

      I stated "Disability accommodations are for those who NEED to use them - not for those who WANT to use them".

      If your arthritis is "very bad" then you need to use the stall. How is that hard to understand?

      Where, precisely, did I say a single thing about your particular diagnosis?

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    4. I am autistic and I am in there honors classes and two bands. You could say that I do not need resource services because of my grades and the courses I take, but I need it to be able to excel to my full potential. This could be the same thing with the accessible stall. You may be able to use a regular one, but feel safer in the accessible stall. No one has the right to judge without knowing the full case.

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    5. Every child could use extra help in school to be able to excel to their full potential. If you are able to take three honors classes then you should never have access to resource services. That is selfishly abusing limited funds and you are taking that help from someone who struggles in basic classes and can truly benefit from that help simply to make average grades. You are abusing it to prop up your GPA and are the type of person who will use your "disability" to get scholarships and funding for college when you don't really need it any more than anyone else. I doubt ellen will even publish this however because it is too truthful and no one likes the truth here.

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    6. How do you know that all school accommodations are purely for the sake of academic success? Maybe the accommodations I receive are to quell my sometimes debilitating anxiety so I wouldn't inhibit myself from reaching my full potential. I have documents that prove that I am autistic, but I cannot show them you as the Blogger commenting system does not allow file attachment. I feel that you have not been exposed to a situation where a high-performing student needs assistance or have fallen through the cracks because you struggled academically based on your reactions. I hope you realize that a dot on a number line does not dictate whether one needs certain things.

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    7. Afnna, you are using your Autism as an excuse. If you are able to succeed in any honors class - let alone multiple classes - then you should not be allowed to waste valuable resource funding. EVERY child in school can benefit from extra help to achieve their full potential, but resource classes/programs are SUPPOSED to be for student who legitimately struggle to even make average grades. These funds are limited, and since you are using your autism and occasional anxiety as an excuse, you are preventing another student from accessing resource programming. You are so far off base on your assumption of me but I am not surprised. You are an extremely selfish, egotistical person who hides behind a diagnosis. I am very fortunate to have been blessed with intelligence and I have never taken it for granted. I have, however, watched students be shoved aside because they did not have an official diagnosis to wave around in order to get special attention. I have watched the students who had potential but were not able to get the extra help they needed because of limited funding. These kids are not "falling" between the cracks but rather are being shoved down them by greedy people like you.

      If you are as intelligent and capable as you proclaim, then do the decent thing and stop abusing the limited resource funding that could be helping a student who truly deserves it. If ellen is woman enough to post this, that is. She really does enjoy being the censor Nazi.

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    8. So you are using my intelligence to call me an impostor? It is the law to provide services despite one's abilities without them.

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  26. What a day to stop by your blog again. It looks like you kicked the hornet's nest

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  27. Ellen, please admit that you made a mistake. You have no idea what's it's like to have an invisible disability yet you rushed to judge another person in a way you would never want Max to be judged. My son with Aspergers would seem "normal" to you, but would have no idea how to respond to someone confronting him. He has sensory and gross motor issues that make the large stall safer for him. I have had problems my knees since I was 20 and need the rails. I don't need to defend or explain that. Please just apologize and stop trying to defend your position. We all make mistakes. We have all rushed to judgment. The trick is knowing how to recant gracefully.

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  28. Wow, you really did piss off the internet, didn't you?

    What all the annonymouses don't understand is that this is just one of many times you've probably encountered this. And sometimes, as a mom with the kid who needs the big stall, you snap. You have a moment. You have dealt with this 1000 times and you twitch badly during time 1001. So you say something. And piss off the whole internet.

    But you weren't too snappy, really. And as someone who deals with invisible disabilities via her own child, I think her response was a bit....yeah....I would have been all "Sorry, she needs my help, she has special needs." And you would have been all "OMG, sorry to bother you, you know how it is!"

    It's like people who claim to park in the handicapped spot b/c they're "just going to be a minute" and "it wasn't being used"....um...no. Before I had a child with a disability, I avoided the big stall unless absolutely necessary, and then made sure I was quick about it if I did use it.

    I do get eyeballs from people when I use the handicap stalls with my perfectly normal looking child. If someone said anything to me, I'd just explain that she is actually handicapped, and the stall is made for us.

    And to be all "He could have used a stall on his own"....yeah....if it worked that way, don't you think Ellen would have done that?

    This is why I love Family Bathrooms...but then again, I get stink eyes from moms with strollers when I use them.

    Don't get me started on trying to change a diaper on a tall kid in a regular stall. I'm still in therapy over that.

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    1. Well phoebe, Max is of the age where he should not even be in the ladies toilet to begin with so in truth ellen should have either sent him into the men's room to use the toilet or gone into the men's room with him.

      If you get off on playing the victim that is fine but do NOT insult those of us who simply live our lives without all the politically correct drama and BS you people thrive on.

      Delete
  29. I had hyperemesis with all 3 of my pregnancies. I often used the disabled stall or the family bathroom to give me some space from activity while I tried desperately to catch my bearings. I looked pale but otherwise healthy. Perhaps it wasn't a good enough reason to use it, but it doesn't take long of gagging in public restrooms before you get picky. But you've already admitted you were wrong for assuming that she didn't have a disability based on her appearances. I think the problem is that, assuming she doesn't have an invisible reason for needing that stall, all you did was embarrass and probably anger her. If you felt you needed to say something to her, probably a smile and a "Thank you" as you reached for the stall door, "We were waiting for that stall" would have gotten your point across. Honestly, I think simply seeing you standing there with your son obviously has special needs would have been enough. I don't think your outburst helped your cause at all-which is understanding and kindness to others, correct?

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  30. I noticed where I live there usually isn't a handicapped sticker on the larger stall. Sometimes, a persons disability isn't always apparent. I was very glad that the ride attendant was so kind. Kindness seems in short supply these days in the What's in it for me world.

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  31. What I can't get over is that I don't know why people are reading your blog if they don't know that you have some experience with all kinds of people, with and without disabilities. You were prescient with your title that Some People Get It and SOME DON'T.

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  32. Thanks for venting, and for starting an interesting and heartfelt conversation about accessible stall use. When my kids were babies, I often used the accessible stall if I was out alone with them, since it was often the only one with a changing table or toddler seat or room for my umbrella stroller. One time, I came out, and an older woman in a wheelchair was waiting directly outside the stall. When I came out, I apologized for making her wait, and she was kind and compassionate. I bet if the woman had just said "I'm sorry," or "I need the stall too" (without going into details), Ellen would've just rushed inside and that would've been the end of it.

    I do wonder, though, about one thing: I thought people with disabilities could skip a line and go straight to the accessible stall. I'm surprised to read that others don't think that's the case. I figured since the rule is you don't go in the accessible stall if someone else needs it, the person who needs it gets to go straight to it!

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  33. OK, rather than trying to keep on answering individual comments, I'll just respond en masse here. I should not have immediately assumed that the woman in the stall was not disabled, as yes, she could have had an invisible disability. I genuinely apologize to people with invisible disabilities and family members of people with invisible abilities, who clearly face stigma and challenges all their own. I will also say that it seems hypocritical of commenters to chide someone for judging and then to also jump to conclusions all their own. No, I wasn't "bragging"--I was venting. This is my blog; I air my experiences, opinions and feelings. No, I would never expect a stranger in a bathroom or elsewhere to "owe" me an explanation of their disability. But it does seem to me that a person who felt justified in using that stall for a disability-related reason—including a person with an invisible disability—would not have responded, "You could have knocked." Because if that was the case, it was her right to be there. (Although, again, I am not pardoning myself for jumping to conclusions in the first place.) Yes, I do need to accompany Max into stalls and no, I do not think it's OK to leave a bathroom door open for an almost 12-year-old boy. I waited for the accessible bathroom for good reason. Yes, I do generally feel that accessible stalls should be kept vacant for those they are meant for, unless it's a crowded bathroom situation. I am glad, at the very least, that this got a conversation going here and on Facebook about visible disabilities along with changes people would like to see, including more family restrooms (and single people not using them) and changing stations located outside of accessible stalls.

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  34. I have a question. Obviously, at almost 12 years old, Max is at an age where normally he would not be using the ladies room. In cases of adults who need assistance and have an opposite sex caregiver, is it customary to use the gender restroom of the caregiver or the person needing assistance? How do people handle this? I'm not sure I've ever come across this situation, but it must happen.

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    1. I don't have an answer, we're navigating new territory here!

      Delete
    2. I know this is a very old post, so perhaps you won't see this, but with my teen son we generally went by the caregiver gender, until he frankly made the women in the women's bathroom uncomfortable (as in, why is there a guy in the girl's bathroom).

      So for several years after that it was only family bathrooms or individual bathrooms like you"ll find in some libraries and smaller stores.

      Nowadays, if he goes into a guy bathroom on his own I stand right by the door, turn nine shades of red, and just talk to him the whole time so that -1- nobody thinks he's alone and tries to hassle him and -2- by his responses I now he's doing ok.

      Now ask me what I'm supposed to do when I need the bathroom and he's with me...

      Good luck - Alyssa

      Delete
  35. If, as a wheelchair user, I hadn't had NUMEROUS encounters with able-bodied people using the handicapped stall simply because they obviously enjoyed a larger area, I would agree with some of you naysayers. However, too often I've come up against groups of teen girls using the stall as their personal dressing room, or those who were just being horribly inconsiderate of the disabled. Handicapped stalls should be considered just like handicapped parking spaces if one follows the logic behind providing special parking for wheelchair users. Wheelchair users need more space whether it's in a parking lot or in a bathroom. While waiting in line in the restroom, I've seen the able-bodied use the larger stall without considering me at all. I know exactly what Ellen is talking about and agree.

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    1. Not all disabilities that require an accessible stall also require wheelchairs. What about urinary diversion device users or people with severe arthritis? Don't forget to consider those with digestive conditions.

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  36. I feel sad that everyone wants to weigh in with their outrage, pro and con about bathroom stalls, and there hasn't been a single comment of praise for The Attendant of the Year at the scooter ride. Do we feel so entitled to being treated with kindness and respect, that this wonderful story of humanity and good cheer and just plain decency happens without a ticker tape parade? Let's picket THIS ride with "Give the man a raise!" And "Here works a champion of special needs kids" signs. Could we, even for just a season, try to catch someone doing something right?

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    1. Wise words, Peggy. That attendant really was wonderful.

      Delete
  37. I hope to teach all of my children the difference between advocating for themselves when it will improve their situation--in school, on the job, with family and friends--rather than taking a stand because they feel they are right. It is a sad and scary fact, but in the future, if, as an adult, my son with special needs were to confront a man coming out of the big stall in the same way, he would be risking physical harm. Especially if he cannot communicate his "argument" 100% effectively. Advocacy is a wonderful and power tool, but our children need to know when it is appropriate, and safe, to speak up.

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  38. Unfortunately for me, I wrote a long post about your situation and now it's gone.

    What I originally wanted to say was that you were right Ellen for challenging the woman in the disabled toilet. Had it been someone who was genuinely disabled, they wouldn't have reacted the way she did where she tried to blame you for her selfish/unthinking/uncaring action.

    As for all of those feeling sorry for themselves with their "hidden" disabilities; If you can go to a regular toilet, then you should do so. Seeing as you are disabled yourselves, you must be full of compassion for those who really need the disabled toilets. Like, for example, someone without legs and in a wheelchair or, a special needs child/adult who needs help with personal care.

    I have first hand experience of what you are going through Ellen as my daughter is now 21 and is severely learning delayed. While she can walk, we use a wheelchair for long distances so there are times when we use one and times that we don't depending on where we are. If there is a long line where the disabled toilet is part of the rest of the restroom, I do not wait in line to use it either as it is often the only one I can use and the one that is designated for people like my daughter.

    As far as Liza's comment about how disabled toilets shouldn't be treated like disabled parking spaces, why shouldn't they? I live in the UK and travel all over Europe. In the UK we have the Radar Key Scheme where those who are registered disabled get a special key to unlock the public disabled toilets. The same type of scheme with the one special key is used in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In most other places in Europe, the disabled toilets are locked where you have to go to an attendant and ask for the key. By locking them up, it keeps the toilets relatively clean and free to use for the people who really need them while discouraging those who really should know better find their way to the regular toilets.

    Years ago, disabled toilets did not exist. Now more and more people who wouldn't otherwise have been able to leave home can. Their lives are often quite difficult and full of all sorts of obstructions that you, regular (but still special) person, will never have to face. Why oh why would you want to try and make their lives more difficult by occupying the places that were designated for them?



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  39. Dear Abby did a column on this subject years ago because someone sent in a question on whether it was possible to use the handicap stall if there was a line--and or if it wasn't in use. And Dear Abby wrote: YES. If it wasn't being used, etiquette allowed for this. Men's lines are so much shorter than women's lines and it does seem silly (when there is a line) to reserve an available stall"in case" someone with a disability happens to come in at some point in time. Most people, don't take that long (unless they do have some sort of disability). So when I'm next in line and the handicap toilet opens up, I do use it. Thinking (based upon Dear Abby) that this was not offensive.

    I know you are getting a lot of flack about this, but I think your point is: if there are other stalls available, and you are able bodied, please select something other than the handicap stall. Is that correct? And I get that.

    But I'm sure most people (like myself) don't purposefully use a larger stall to tick off somebody with a disability. I'm like you, if I used one and then realized someone else needed it--I would apologize profusely too. That's just my style. I tend to feel guilt even when I shouldn't.

    But I also do feel that if no other stall is available and there is no one with a visible disability (my bad because I'm quickly making an visual judgement) in line, that I have the right to empty my bladder. I do it as quickly as possible so other people can also use the stall.

    I don't believe bathroom stalls are the same as parking spots, because most people don't stay in a bathroom as long as some people need to park. That may not even be a legitimate argument, but??? I could probably get a parking permit so Lindsey doesn't have to walk as far, but never have. If we are standing in line, even though Lindsey now uses a walker, I don't think her need to potty should come before those in front of her. But that's just me. I would not walk to the front of the line, passing all the waiters, so Lindsey could use the handicap stall. We'd wait our turn. So far it has worked out fine. Life changes though. And their may be a time in the future that using the bathroom may be urgent and we will change our philosophy. That happens too. :-)

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  40. Wow, I feel sorry for this poor girl who has had her bathroom habits totally deconstructed by perfect strangers because Ellen thought it was okay to rake her over the coals on the Internet.

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  41. You were wrong...just admit it.

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  42. Ok, she shouldnn't have been in the stall, but we have no idea what led up to her being there. I really believe there is danger iin expecting people to anticipate every special needs need. That just makes people think we deserve to be "special" 24/7. Usually, when people need something, they speak up. I don't know what some in the special needs world don't speak up but then get mad at not getting wwhat is needed. You could have just knocked.... if she didn't respond well, then that could be a reason for offense.....anyway, as long as we don'tt learn to speak up for ourselves and not think "well, it should be this or that way" we'll just be batted about by the world.

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  43. It seems like a few people have touched upon this already, but I think this is the social equivalent of a repetitive stress injury. Ellen's reaction wasn't just about that particular woman in that particular stall...it was about a lot of different women in a lot of different stalls. It was about a lot of people being consistently less thoughtful and accommodating than they should be because the don't understand or don't care to understand. This stuff wears you down. Before I had a disabled child I never used the handicapped stall if it was avoidable. My mother taught me that when I was a little girl and I never changed the habit. I can, however, also relate to having assumptions made about "disability" status. My daughter is 4 and non-ambulatory, non-verbal, visually impaired, severely delayed, epileptic...but she is also very small (think 18 month-old size)..and her wheelchair looks like a slamming fancy stroller rather than a serious feat of medical engineering. We get stares and glares sometimes that seem to be people sorting out if we "belong" in that parking spot or stall or what have you. Even so, I sometimes find myself making snap judgements about others. I wish I didn't, but I do. I try to remember to be compassionate and non-judgmental...but sometimes that repetitive stress and defensiveness...the sense that other people aren't going to look out for your kid if you don't...kicks in.

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  44. I had a c-section after a difficult premature labor and then an unusually difficult recovery. For the first few days I was totally dependent on a nurse or my husband to get on and off the toilet. I also could not stand or walk without an abdominal binder but had to take the binder off in order to get my underwear down ... it might sound like a small thing, but I was in so much pain that it was actually quite difficult to do by myself. For the first few days after I was discharged, when I visited my son in the NICU I would use the disabled stalls in the hospital bathroom because I needed to hold on to the bar and the toilet was higher. I could NOT get on and off the regular toilets by myself.

    On one such visit, I came out of the disabled stall in the otherwise empty bathroom, and there was a woman in a wheelchair waiting. She was quite rude to me. I looked like a perfectly able-bodied twenty-something young woman, which I usually am, so she assumed that I was being thoughtless in using the stall. I don't remember what I said, except that I didn't even attempt to explain or justify my use of it - I didn't owe her an explanation, and I was too exhausted, physically and emotionally.

    Basically, I was that girl you snapped at. And it hurt.

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  45. i am an able bodied man, i have social anxiety problems, i am unable to do number 2 in a stall that is flanked by two other stalls, especially when there are other men in the washroom, the handicap stall is usually at the end of the line, there is only one stall next to you, that only slightly alleviates the problem, the large crack in the door that allows people to see inside, and the doors and walls stopping about 14 inches from the floor and only going up a little over six feet means that you can be looked at from all directions, i have actually not gone into crowded washrooms and waited to board the airplane to go. with my work i frequently fly, when i do, i am on the go for anywhere between 12 to 40 hours before i get home, when i see a family room, i use it, i know where they are all at, i often use it to wash up, nobody wants to sit next to mr stinky on the plane. i have been confronted by people when leaving the family washroom, i usually tell them to go f... themselves, i owe them no explanation. if you are ignorant and rude to me, expect a mouthful. . i think that every stall in every washroom should have walls from the floor to the ceiling and the cracks in the doors should be eliminated, they should all be widend by six inches and have a means to sanitise the toilet seat, i don't want to get hepatitis or some other disease. if you address those problems, less people will use the washroom that your sense of entitlement has you believe that you own. i am a person just like you, i need privacy, women fought for equality, and won it, now shut up and enjoy your equality, i am going for number 2.

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Thanks for sharing!



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