Anyone ever been "caught" using the handicapped stall?
September 16, 2007 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Just out of morbid curiosity, has anyone ever been using the handicapped stall at a public restroom and actually got "caught" by a handicapped person? What did they say? Did you fight?
posted by Brandon1600 to Society & Culture (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No, but Curb Your Enthusiasm has a funny episode where Larry David has an encounter with a man in a wheelchair for using the handicapped stall.
posted by Becko at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2007

I never thought the handicapped accessible stall was like a parking space that could not be used by an able bodied person. I always assumed it was available for use by anyone, but that if there was a line, to give preference to a person who had to use it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2007 [5 favorites]

I always assumed it's "handicapped accessible", not "handicapped only". This is based on the fact that many places have only one bathroom stall and that stall is handicapped accessible. If it were "handicapped only", I wouldn't be able to use any bathroom whatsoever. QED.
posted by null terminated at 7:35 PM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yes, what null terminated said. Frankly, I can't think of any great reasons why a handicapped person should even get to cut to the front of the line for the handicapped stall, so long as that line isn't longer than the other ones.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:43 PM on September 16, 2007

My husband recently used a handicapped washroom and, when he came out, not one but TWO persons in wheelchairs were waiting in line. He felt very sheepish, but he wasn't familiar with the movie house and had just gone into the nearest washroom. The gentlemen waiting didn't say anything.

FWIW, it may take much more time and effort for a person with a disability to make their way to the washroom. Once inside, they may have to get out of a chair or make other accommodations before they can use the washroom. So I can understand why someone with a disability would cut to the front of the line.
posted by acoutu at 7:49 PM on September 16, 2007

If it were "handicapped only", they would be nonexistent in most buildings, hidden away in some dark corner of the few buildings that did have them, never be stocked with toilet paper, and accessible only by finding the correct security guard with a key. Thank goodness able-bodied people see their utility.
posted by Soliloquy at 7:50 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with those that don't think twice about using these stalls. I'd probably let a handicapped person go in front of me if there were some sort of line and that one opened up first, but otherwise, it's usable by all, just like any other stall.
posted by mjgrady at 7:56 PM on September 16, 2007

Yes - they're not handicapped only. It shouldn't ever be a problem unless you're taking like half an hour in there.

The issue with parking spaces is different because your car will be there for a long time, and if it's a van-access space (with a set-aside striped pavement area next to it) someone may need that space to even be able to get out of their car. But a bathroom stall is a one to five minute thing, so not really a problem.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:57 PM on September 16, 2007

Also, many of the handicapped stalls do time as the diaper changing stall too (At least in women's bathrooms). I always use them because I can bring my baby's stroller in there.
posted by saffry at 8:00 PM on September 16, 2007

I've had this happen. I use the handicapped stall pretty often, usually when they're the last one free, or as is often the case the only one where nobody has pissed on the seat (plus I like to use the extra room to stretch my legs.) Anyway a little while ago I came out of one and a fellow in a wheelchair gave me the evil eye. I just said "all yours buddy" and headed out.
posted by shanevsevil at 8:02 PM on September 16, 2007

Nth for there being no general social directive to not use those stalls. If your a nice person you probably won't use them if there are other options, but leaving it open on the off chance that someone disabled would come in is a little silly. Regardless, has anyone ever seen a handicap only sign on one of those stall doors? I think it's just an incorrect assumption.
posted by JakeLL at 8:21 PM on September 16, 2007

They're not restricted use, they just happen to be the ones that are accessible. Just don't, y'know, barf all over it and leave a mess, eh?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:27 PM on September 16, 2007

My mom doesn't really look handicapped at first glance. There've been a few great moments when self-righteous people have yelled at her for parking in a handicapped space, before she points out her handicap plate and noticeable limp. This is just to say that even handicapped people get shit for using resources when others feel some distorted sense of entitlement and responsibility.

But seriously, Sephira's story almost made me piss myself. Not in a handicap stall, of course.
posted by chelseagirl at 8:30 PM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Also, many of the handicapped stalls do time as the diaper changing stall too (At least in women's bathrooms). I always use them because I can bring my baby's stroller in there.

I agree that in many bathrooms, the handicapped stalls are designed with mothers in mind. It's much easier to keep an eye on your kids or help them go potty in a larger stall.

I think it's just an incorrect assumption.

JakeLL, I'm not sure that it's incorrect to assume that the large stalls are designed for handicapped persons (particularly with the Americans with Disabilities Act in mind). However, I'd say that social niceties indicate that a handicapped person (or, as mentioned above, mother with children) gets first dibbs on the big stall.
posted by radioamy at 8:31 PM on September 16, 2007

Once when I was a teenager, I exited a handicapped stall and found myself facing a middle-aged woman with a cane. She glared and seemed to lunge at me as she hobbled into the stall. Or maybe she just had a very ferocious limp and my perception was clouded by guilt. Now I feel a flash of sheepish agony when I use the handicapped stall, but usually not enough to stop me.
posted by granted at 8:32 PM on September 16, 2007

In my high school health class they had a paraplegic guy come talk to us. The general point of the session was "don't drive drunk like I did, or you might end up with a dead buddy and no sensation in your legs like I did." However, he also talked about the experience of being a paraplegic, and he addressed this question. According to him, because he had such limited sensation in his lower body, he didn't really get the normal warning that most of us do when he would need to use the bathroom. I guess maybe he couldn't feel the gradual filling of his bladder (or lower intestine?), he only knew when all of a sudden it was really uncomfortable and time to go NOW. In any case, he urged us all not to use the handicapped stalls, even if it meant waiting for a normal stall to open up, so that people who were handicapped could get in when they suddenly needed to. I'm sure people face enough of a time crunch trying to get out of a wheel chair and onto a toilet, which only makes matters worse if you've got very little notice that you're going to have to go.
posted by vytae at 8:52 PM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

I got "caught" once. I was in the stall and someone came into the restroom and knocked on the stall door. I said, "be out in a minute!" Almost immediately she said "I'm handicapped, and you're in the handicapped stall. It's supposed to be for handicapped people only." I was annoyed (can't a person have ten seconds?), so in one of my ruder interactions with an outright stranger, I said, "oh, I disagree!" (I'm with null terminated on this) and followed that up with, "*I* have to wait for the restroom sometimes too." Then, I immediately felt bad for being rude, and reminded myself it's not worth being right if you make yourself into a jerk in the process, so I backpedaled and said in a nicer tone of voice, "well, I guess if that is the case, they should do more public education. I hadn't heard that before." She, maybe also trying to make peace, said, "you're right, there's no sign that says 'handicapped only.'" I left the stall saying, "here you go, sorry I was so rude at first," and she said not to worry about it. So the whole thing ended on a pretty nice note.
posted by salvia at 8:57 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Happened to me a couple times. I just said, "Sorry, the other stall was occupied, and nobody was waiting for this one [the wheelchair-accessible stall]."

Both times the guys in the chairs were cool about it. It's just common courtesy I think. If they had been bitchy about it, I would have said, "Sorry, this is accessible but not reserved."

If they still persisted in being rude, I would seize the wheelchair, roll it out of the restroom, and hold the door closed for a minute or two.

Just kidding. Out of consideration, though, I do refrain from using the wheelchair stall if there's a non-accessible stall open.
posted by Rykey at 9:11 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

What Vytae said. The reason not to use the handicapped stall is that handicapped/disabled people often have very little time between the time they realize they have to use the bathroom until the time when they've got a real crisis. If there's any way to avoid using a handicapped stall, you should always do so. The Ethicist at NPR disagrees, however.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:40 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

+1 for the "handicapped accessible, not handicapped only" proposition.

(This reminds me that I had a disturbing Larry Craig-inspired dream the other night, based around the notion that "handicapped accessible" is also "gay sex accessible.")
posted by jayder at 9:55 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I see it more like the seats on the bus. Use the other ones first. If there's nothing else left, and there are no handicapped people waiting, go ahead, but realize you are the "guest" so be quick about it.
posted by ctmf at 10:09 PM on September 16, 2007

When I was a Personal Care Assistant for a disabled (MD) gentleman, we used to have to make frequent emergency bathroom runs. He was only ever annoyed when the accessible stall was occupied with other stalls available. It's true that as vytae relates, many disabled people have difficulty controlling their bladders as part of their disability. But neither of us ever considered the accessible stalls "disabled only." And the annoyance we both felt at someone using the accessible stall when others were available was, I think, not much different than the annoyance anyone might experience when they find anything that's usually available to them in use by someone else.

Bottom line: accessible stalls are *not* only for use by disabled persons, but if you have options, it would be polite to use the regular stalls and leave the accessible one available on the off chance that a disabled person might need it.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 10:22 PM on September 16, 2007

Of course, Banky_Edwards, you overlook the possibility that the regular stalls were all full when the person using the handicapped stall came in.

I usually try to wait for a regular stall, but I have IBS and if I have an emergency, sorry but I'm using the handicapped stall.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:40 PM on September 16, 2007

IndigoRain: I don't think B_E did overlook that possibility - note how he qualifies his and his client's annoyance. My own attitude is similar - "ah, well, it was probably full when they came in". I don't resent the use of the stall by non-disabled people, and I certainly wouldn't resent its use by someone who had an urgent need for one - like yourself. I suspect my attitude is the prevailing one in the community.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:53 PM on September 16, 2007

How can someone tell through a closed stall door whether or not you're handicapped? Not every disabled person uses a wheelchair.

A few years back I injured my leg and was on crutches for a few weeks; the handicapped stall in our office building's restroom was the furthest (of 12) from the entrance door. I ended up using the closest stall instead and taking my chances of falling (no handrail).
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:14 PM on September 16, 2007

USian friend of a friend is in a wheelchair and has a great story about a beer-fueled trans-door altercation with a non-disabled woman who was using the big stall to cry in. ("I have problems, OK? Just use one of the other stalls -- it's not like you're in a wheelchair or something!")

Extremes like that aside, said friend's understanding of the etiquette in general seemed to be the common-sense one outlined by Banky_Edwards, spaceman_spiff, etc. above.
posted by No-sword at 1:39 AM on September 17, 2007

To be serious for a moment though, I will only use it if there's all the other stalls are in use. I will almost never use one of the standalone toilets i.e. one which is completely separate from the main toilets, as I consider that type to be 'reserved' rather than 'accessible'.
posted by knapah at 4:31 AM on September 17, 2007

The handicapped stall at my work has nicer toilet paper than the other stalls. Ergo, that's the one I use.
posted by inigo2 at 5:54 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I will almost never use one of the standalone toilets i.e. one which is completely separate from the main toilets, as I consider that type to be 'reserved' rather than 'accessible'.

Said separate bathrooms are also much more likely to be specifically marked for handicapped or, in some cases, "family" use, which brings the matter ethically closer to parking in an handicapped space rather than parking in a unmarked space that would be particularly well-suited to a handicapped person.

As someone who has been on crutches in the past, I think the truly wise bathroom designer provides grab handles in every stall. If you're not in a wheelchair, you don't generally need the extra space, but the handles are quite useful.
posted by backupjesus at 6:06 AM on September 17, 2007

Please don't use it if you can use another stall, particularly if the restroom is busy. As someone else noted, not all disabilities are visible and I've known several people who need the grab bars in the handicapped stall.
posted by agregoli at 7:26 AM on September 17, 2007

I think things in life should be give and take, from both sides. So if handicapped people aren't allowed to use the regular stalls, then sure.. I'll support them having stalls I can't use. If they /can/ use our stalls too, though, then you can't have your cake and eat it.
posted by wackybrit at 7:30 AM on September 17, 2007

Along those lines, it would be really nice if we could all have stalls with an extra 6" of lateral clearance. Sitting down in some stalls is like wedging my ass into a coffin.
posted by Irontom at 7:47 AM on September 17, 2007

Yeah. I was on the handicapped crapper when I heard someone come in and then leave, not taking care of any business (not washing hands, using restroom, anything, just in and out). I finished up and went outside the restroom and saw someone in a wheelchair, waiting.

I immediately thought of the Curb your Enthusiasm episode.
posted by ijoyner at 8:31 AM on September 17, 2007

(plus I like to use the extra room to stretch my legs.)

Please rethink that. If there are other stalls available, you're being very rude to just "stretch your legs" in a stall someone else might need in an emergency. You can stretch your legs all you want once you're done shitting.
posted by mediareport at 8:58 AM on September 17, 2007

The only exclusive handicapped bathroom I've ever encountered has been handicapped/women's, which seemed odd and obnoxious (especially since there was no men's room until the 3rd floor, this being on the 1st).But the only time I've been caught using it was when I was drunk at school and was caught by another drunk guy. We both exchanged sheepish glances and were like, Man, I can't even find the one up on the third floor—that's my handicap.
(I did find it later, but it was a pain in the ass, as it was inside a room that was ostensibly a classroom, where you wouldn't think to look).
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on September 17, 2007

The IT Crowd Series 2 Episode 1 contains a warning to those abled people who avail themselves of disabled facilities. For those with a restricted knowledge of the geography of the British Isles it would have taken the minibus about four hours to get to Manchester (single You Tube link, pertinent part starts at 12.30 ).
posted by Dr.Pill at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2007

That Curb Your Enthusiasm episode has a scene in which a train of men are waiting to use a stall even though there's a free handicapped one; they all get mad when Larry David skips the line to use it. I was pretty puzzled when I saw it. Really? None of those guys would use the handicapped stall? Either, I thought, Larry David has no idea about the way that bathrooms work and wrote a dumb scene in the episode, or things really are different out in L.A. Maybe this is a regional thing?
posted by painquale at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2007

Sitting down in some stalls is like wedging my ass into a coffin.

Wide stance?
posted by kirkaracha at 2:21 PM on September 17, 2007

I'm not physically handicapped, and I refuse to go in most normal stalls. I consider it ridiculous that I can't even enter a stall and turn around without brushing up against the (potentially filthy) toilet, walls, and door. Furthermore, I have "shy bladder syndrome", so having the extra space can mean the difference between being able to go at all and not.

IMHO, if bathroom designers weren't thoughtless scum, they'd make all of the stalls wider. If that meant fewer stalls and/or no urinals, that would be fine by me.

To answer the OP, no, I've never been "caught" — and I honestly wouldn't care if I was, since I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt. If someone has a problem, they can take it up with the aforementioned designers. :P
posted by korpios at 2:44 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I got busted once. It was at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan, about 7 years ago. My mother and I stopped in to ogle the lobby and use the restroom. I went into the handicapped stall and sure enough, there was a knock on the door. I panicked, feeling a little sheepish about using it in the first place, so I faked a limp out of there and still feel dumb about it.
posted by orangemiles at 10:30 AM on September 18, 2007

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