Not Handicapped? Stay out of the Stall.

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.

If you can use another stall, please do.

If you can use another stall, please do.

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.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Her business website covers training and business coaching; her art website covers creating raw art journals–art journals for people who can’t draw.

13 thoughts on “Not Handicapped? Stay out of the Stall.

  1. A handicapped stall is not reserved for only the handicapped, it’s “handicapped accessible” meaning it will accommodate those who are in a wheelchair. Just like a marked handicapped parking stall with a sign stating “van accessible”, a person who is disabled needing the right side open to unload their wheelchair.

    Are you telling me that if I’m handicapped but not in a van I can’t park there? Of course I can because it’s not reserved for only handicapped vans, it’s “van accessible” but only if it’s the only one available. Not only that but when I get out of my car I also walk up the “wheelchair accessible” ramp too.

    • The handicapped have few enough advantages. I’ve seen people take the handicapped stall who don’t need it, while the handicapped person further down the line has to wait in line twice–once for the line to move and again, when an able-bodied person is taking up the handicapped. It’s not what’s legal, it’s what’s sensible and ethical and fair. If you are handicapped, wheelchair or not, the bathroom offers grip bars and maneuver space not available in other stalls. I said nothing about cars and vans. And you can walk wherever you please on a ramp, because it is not a one-person-at-a-time space.

  2. The handicap stall is made available by businesses to accommodate those who need it, the ADA ensures access for handicap individuals to have adequate access…..however, there is NO law on the books preventing anyone from using said stall….there is for parking however. Rude as some may feel it is to do so is one thing but laws enforcing parking do not and will not relate to stall use. I am really tired of people making things out to be something they are not! The same “rules” do not apply, one is a LAW and specifically states you cannot use it unless you have special permits signifying your right to use it. The other is a bathroom that per the federal government and ADA is made available to accommodate only…no law restricting the use of others and no permits required! Stop misleading people with your so called knowledge of this issue……

    • Thanks for explaining the law, Stephen. This isn’t a legal issue, it’s a moral issue. As a handicapped person, I often have to wait unreasonably long because people treat the handicapped stall as a regular stall. That isn’t fair to handicapped people–exactly what the ADA addresses. Because this is my blog, I get to express my opinions here. You can have yours, too. But I am not misleading anyone and I have a lot of knowledge about being fair and caring.

  3. What if it’s a two stall bathroom and someone is in the “regular” stall? There’s nobody else in the bathroom, there’s no line. Should someone go ahead and use the handicap stall in order to expedite things?

    I have NEVER parked in a handicapped parking space (maybe that’s because my father has been disabled all my life), but I have used the handicap stall in order to keep the flow moving and not create a line. But if I saw someone who was handicapped, I would definitely have them go ahead of me so they can use the bigger stall.

    That said, many times we can’t see that someone is handicapped so it’s definitely a good rule of thumb to always ask if someone needs the handicap stall, especially when there’s a line.

    Good post that makes us all think of things we so often take for granted.

    • No line, no problem. Line? Ask. You had a good life lesson through your Dad. I never gave handicapped stalls a second thought till it was the only place I could use. That shift in perspective sure changed my view!

      • I’ve seen many able bodied people use the larger stall bathrooms without consideration for anyone. They don’t do it intentionally usually but rather because they don’t know any better. It doesn’t occur to them that handicaps are not always visible. This is really a process of educating others.

  4. Have never thought about this subject 😉
    In my country we have to pay for using the toilets in public places and thus there is always a lady or a man present who takes care of the place and who keeps an eye on everything. I guess that makes a bit of a difference but when a not-handicapped person is really ‘in trouble’ and and the toilet for a handicapped person is vacant, then nobody seems to be annoyed.

    • Sounds like a good solution. I honestly think that non-handicapped people don’t give using the special stall a second of thought.
      I didn’t, till I began to need it. I remember the first time I ventured out after surgery, I noticed the handicap stall was waaaaay at the end of the line, so you had to use your cane before you washed your hands. And because the hand-drying paper or blower is poorly places, the area in front of the sink is often water-splattered, making it easy to slip or for your cane to slip. I learned a lot in those first two weeks that made me see room design differently.

      • In that light having to pay 25 Eurocent for the use of public toilets is definitely worth it.
        At least everything is tidy and there is always supervision and service.

        An eye-opener.

  5. This is one where I disagree with you. Certainly, if there is a line, I’d ask if anyone behind me has a need for that stall. But to leave it open for periods of time waiting for someone to come along who might need it makes no sense to me. With a parking spot – yes, because you’re not going to be able to zip in and out and when someone comes along who does have special needs, they can’t be driving around and around waiting for the spot to open. But a toilet stall – when there are 20 people waiting in line? And none of them are in particular need other than to quickly relieve themselves – even the men’s toilets might become fair game.

    • We can disagree–it’s fine with me. I notice you said you’d ask. Which is really all I’d want.
      But as a handicapped person, who often is in a hurry to use the stall, I’ve made a study of how long I have to wait once I get to the FRONT of the line. Average wait: 4 min. 20 sec. And while I can’t tell who is handicapped, my guess is about one in 10. People use that stall to do a LOT of things besides pee and run. This week, I’ve noticed people reading books, charging their MP3 players, using the outlet to dry their hair, and do a complete change of clothes and makeup.
      How about a separate line for handicapped people, who need just that one stall? How about if those of us who are handicapped can move to the front of the line and use just that one stall?
      And the more I read your parking lot idea–it sounds exactly like a toilet stall–there is ONE for handicapped and many more for others. I can’t be “driving around” waiting for the one stall to open, either.

      And for me, it’s EXACTLY the same reason you used for the parking lot–people in the stall “are not going to be able to zip in and out when someone comes along who does have special needs.”

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