A hand from a low seated angle reaches for a public family bathroom door in a shop in urgency

IBS and Accessibility: Public Restrooms and Accessibility

Last updated: March 2022

I have a lot to say about accessibility. I am an ambulatory wheelchair user. This means I can walk but also use a wheelchair. Since I can only walk short distances with a cane, it is often necessary for me to use a wheelchair to get around when I am out and about.

In the time that I have had to use a cane and wheelchair, I have learned a lot about accessibility. Let me tell you, people. Most businesses suck at providing accessibility. They just plain suck at it, and they don’t care. Putting handicapped parking spaces in front of a building to meet ADA requirements does not make it accessible.

Curbside pickup with IBS

Lockdowns and quarantines might have been an inconvenience, but it was also a huge step forward in making some things more accessible. Curbside pickup almost everywhere? Yes, please. Do you know how helpful that is for someone who can’t get around well? Do you have any idea how much safer it is for people with compromised immune systems?

This is also great for those of us who have IBS and worry about public accidents during a flare. It is especially helpful when your business has restrooms that are not very accessible. Curbside pickup is something that you should not stop doing. You should be making it as easy as possible for customers to patronize your business if you are not going to make it more physically accessible.

Businesses need accessible bathrooms

If you have tables crammed together or aisles that are not quite wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through, you are not very accessible. If you have stairs but no ramp or elevator, you are not accessible. I have noticed an increase in restaurants with sunken areas that have steps leading to other dining areas or buffet bars.

Some businesses have restrooms on a different level but have no way for wheelchair users to get to them. Not only do businesses fail to provide enough space for wheelchairs to move around, but they are also failing to provide bathrooms that are easily accessible for wheelchair users. I would also like to mention that placing a bar on the wall in a restroom the size of a small closet does not make it accessible.

Bring back family bathrooms

I went to a large retail store yesterday. This is a well-known national chain with stores everywhere. I was having a flare and I chose this store because they often have family bathrooms. It is much easier for me to have someone wheel me into the bathroom and help deal with my chair. Trying to run for the bathroom when you cannot run can lead to embarrassing accidents.

I soon found that they no longer have a family bathroom. Stores are closing them. Listen up, business owners. Better accessibility does not mean building more of the handicapped stalls that aren’t big enough to even turn my chair around. Stop closing the family bathrooms. Add more of them. More stores need them.

We need accessible bathrooms

I struggled to try to make it into the bathroom with just my cane. I struggled to walk out after I had washed my hands. Everything was more difficult because I did not have help. My husband cannot wheel me into the women’s restroom and assist me, and that is why more family bathrooms are needed. Some of us need assistance getting in and out of the bathroom.

Having IBS is hard enough to handle on its own. Dealing with businesses that do not have accessible bathrooms makes it even more difficult. What do you do if you have a flare and cannot find a bathroom you can actually use? Do you have mobility issues and IBS? How do you deal with the lack of accessible bathrooms?

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