The handicapped parking space issue has pretty much been settled. If you park in one and you get caught, you get a ticket. Most judges aren’t sympathetic to “I was just going to take a minute.” Tickets stick, you pay. Often hefty fees.
Not so in the real-estate of the public bathroom. At least in the ladies’ room, there is a huge misunderstanding about who gets to use the stall for handicapped people.
Moms with infants know that some of the bigger stalls have hanging changing tables, so it’s natural for them to use them.
Moms with more than one child also want to use them. It corrals everyone in one confined space.
Women who are big use the handicap stall because, well, it’s roomier in there.
Women who want to change their clothes can use the changing table as a place for a purse, the other shoes and clothing.
In airports, women who have a lot of luggage fine it easier to use the restricted stall.
Claustrophobia seems a good excuse, except not liking small stalls isn’t really claustrophobia.
So people who are handicapped often have to wait, letting person after person pass them in line while they wait for the able-bodied person to finish using the stall designed for the handicapped.
It gets trickier–what if the stall is open and you are not handicapped, but using the stall makes sense? And who is handicapped and who isn’t? And can’t you use it if no one else is?
The rule that applies is the same one as the parking lot–if you aren’t handicapped, don’t use it. Somewhere right behind you in line is a mother who needs the changing table, or a woman who isn’t obviously handicapped and needs to sit on the higher toilet because the lower ones make it impossible to use them. Or pull herself up on the rails because without the rails, she can’t get up. She may not have a cane, she may not be old. She may have a condition that is serious, that she hides because for years, she knows how people will tell her how to fix her problem if she mentions it.
So when you are in that long ladies’ room line, and you want to use the handicapped stall, simply turn around and ask down the line, “Does anyone need the handicapped stall?” It won’t help everyone, but it wil be an excellent step in the right direction–into a regular stall, if you aren’t handicapped.