When did using a washroom in a public place become a problem? Oh, right, when people need help in the washroom. That makes sense right? Wrong!
I have taken it upon myself to find all the good (can fit me, one other person and a wheelchair, or has a big table) washrooms in Toronto. When no good washroom is available, I start to search out first aid rooms. They almost always have a bed they can let us use or a unisex washroom as I support so many boys.
It usually goes something like this…
I’ll be with someone who uses a wheelchair. I ask if there is a separate wheelchair washroom, which always seems to go over peoples heads as they say, “yes, but what do you mean?”
“Well, what I mean by separate wheelchair washroom is a washroom that stands alone, has a toilet a sink, and a little extra room to manoeuvre.”
“Oh, yes, we have that; it is in the women’s washroom.” They say this as they look at my male client. Do you see the problem?
In grade school, if a boy went into the girl’s room, he got in major trouble. But now in public restrooms it’s okay. Or, is it okay because the person has a disability? My worry is that people think my clients don’t know the difference. This is simply not true. All or my male clients are shy about going into the female restrooms, and they should be. I also feel bad and embarrassed for them as they get stared at and judged.
Or, my recent experience that has happened more than once. There is an accessible family washroom, I wait since it’s occupied. I walk in as the people using it walk out, turn around and the toilet is filthy, in and around bowl. The seat is a whole other story. This time I said excuse me to the mother as she walked away. She turned and walked back.
“You have a little boy, you need to put the seat up or wipe it before you leave. I can’t use it now.” I said disappointed and shocked. She looked at me, said “I didn’t know you needed the toilet” and just walked away. I had to go and get the manager, get into the lift, go half a floor down and use the hidden wheelchair washroom, which I found by mistake days earlier when a chasing a toddler through hiding spots and dead ends.
Basically, bathroom life isn’t easy for people with physical disabilities and their parents or support person. I can’t use the women’s washroom with a guy, my client in a wheelchair may still need the toilet, I need a big change table or there is no option!?!
I have to say it has made me a better advocate for my client. Some people have gone out of their way and said, please use the staff washroom (which they should). It also helps them realize where I am coming from when I think of making a full day trip out of the house for a client or a parent and their kids.
There are some locations that are wonderful that I will name: Cineplex Odeon and Silver City, Yorkdale Mall, Centre Island, Harbourfront, Queen Quay, Science Centre, Zoo, some McDonald’s (you don’t have to purchase anything), Bowlerama’s, Sears in Eaton Centre, Salad King, Milestones @ Yonge and Dundas, ROM, Air Canada Centre, some Churches (you can use if out), City Hall, Ballroom and Mastermind @ Queen East to name a few. All these places have a separate accessible family washroom, change table, first aid centre or bed. Please add more if you know of any.