One of the best bathrooms I ever used as a wheelchair user was in the least likely of places — Costa Rica. I was on a day excursion while on a cruise with a few friends and we went to a botanical garden. Nestled amongst the tropical plants, flowers, and trees was a large green shack. The tour guide pointed it out as the restroom and due to the power of suggestion, I decided to use it immediately.
I rarely use the word “glorious” to describe anything but this really was a glorious restroom. It was a single-user bathroom that was one large 15×15 foot room. There were several grab bars around the toilet which was perched on an elevated block that made the seat about a half-inch higher than my wheelchair. I could roll right under the sink and the paper towels were at lap level, so I could reach everything with ease.
Unfortunately not all bathrooms are like this. I do have a few recommendations to make using restrooms easier for those of us with muscular dystrophy.
1. Look for the family bathrooms
The family bathrooms are usually very large and their are counters for putting things down. Most new facilities that expect large numbers of families to visit (malls, arenas, theaters) have these family bathrooms. Don’t be afraid to use them even if they don’t have the wheelchair symbol on them. I use them all the time. Moms with strollers use our elevators all the time, we can use their bathrooms.
2. Bring a bottle
If you pack a backpack or a bag that you usually have with you or on your wheelchair, a bottle can be helpful for the males of the species to be able to use the toilet without having to transfer just to go #1. In my experience it’s much cleaner and of course, drier. Additionally this can be helpful to have on hand if a bathroom stall is not wide enough. If you absolutely have to go then you can use the bottle and dump it or seal it and dump it later.
3. Carry a few wet naps or a mini bottle of hand sanitizer with you.
Many times I find that the counters in public bathrooms are dripping wet. I usually need a little bit of leverage to reach the water knobs and touching wet counter tops in public restrooms is gross to me. I also find that sometimes the levers for reaching the hand towels are too high or require more arm strength than I have. To get around this, I usually carry a bottle of sanitizer with me in my wheelchair pocket. Then I can skip the sink and life is easier.
4. Know your bathrooms
If you find a bathroom that is particularly easy for you to use, make a mental note of it. Then next time you’re in the area or at the same facility, you’ll know right where to go without even thinking about it. There are some great bathrooms (and some horrible ones) at the big mall in Honolulu. Whenever I am there I know exactly where to go so I don’t waste my time in crowded or less-than-perfect restrooms. Often there are times when I’m not at the mall but in the area and I have to use the bathroom. If it’s convenient, I will just go to one of the nearby mall restrooms.
So until humans magically evolve into beings that don’t need to use the bathroom, dealing with bathroom issues will always be a necessity. Feel free to share your tips in the comments section.