Accessible restroom stories: the one about handrails

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Black and White graphic with bathroom symbols for male, female and wheelchair user. Image for a short story about another an accessible toilet that wasn't.

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Accessible restroom stories: the one about handrails

Jordyn Gualdani describes why an accessible restroom with handrails doesn’t mean it is the restroom is accessible for all.

Recently I had training for work, which was off-site, halfway across town, at a building I had never visited before. The good news for me, a person living with incomplete paraplegia and chronic illness, was that the building had accessible parking and large elevators. The bad news was the restroom was horrible. Seriously horrible. The way I had to forcibly bend my body to go use the facilities could easily be considered some sort of new wave yoga.

Many able-bodied people would consider the restroom to be accessible. The stall was slightly bigger than the other two stalls, and it had handrails on both walls. However, to get to the stall, you had to go through two doors then, which I did and that’s where I became … stuck.


Read more: Accessible housing isn’t just about ramps and automatic doors.


My chair could barely fit to where I could close the door. Those of us who need to change clothing need the room to do so! Especially when our bodies may not be as flexible as Elastigirl.

We, society, need to start asking what disabled individuals need and stop assuming. That restroom stall is not the first I have come across that didn’t adequately meet some basic needs, and it won’t be the last.

Just because the bathroom stall has handrails doesn't make it an accessible restroom.CLICK TO TWEET

I’ve encountered building ramps that are way too steep in places that boastfully say they are accessible. When I finally did manage to reach the building entrance, they have small doorways that can’t fit even a smaller-than-average wheelchair.

The people who do not need these accommodations walk in and say, “yep! It has rails and a ramp.” While the people using these accommodations say “um, the stall won’t close with my chair in it, the ramp made me tip backward, and I can’t get through your door!”

There’s a straightforward way to avoid these problems: consult those you are trying to accommodate! For years I worked with disabled individuals, and I am embarrassed to say that I thought I knew what accessibility meant. When I got sick, I quickly learned that I. Didn’t. Know. Shit.

You don’t know what someone needs until you walk (or roll) in their shoes (or wheels). If you have a product or any construction that needs to comply with inclusion and accessibility laws, it won’t take much to just reach out and listen to what we actually need.

Article by
Jordyn Gualdani

Jordyn Gualdani is a young man who strives to bring awareness to, and educate others about, various chronic conditions. He faces his obstacles with humor and blatant honesty.


Just because the bathroom stall has handrails doesn't make it an accessible restroom.