Gimme a (bathroom) break

Gimme a (bathroom) break

In my house, with three children under the age of five, there’s a rule: no potty talk outside of the bathroom.

Since toddlers seem to delight in poopy humour, it’s a rule that has prevented a lot of silliness at the supper table and a lot of personal embarrassment in the grocery story checkout line.

But I’m setting aside that rule for the moment to publicly address a bathroom issue that has been bothering me this week: Are disabled washrooms reserved for the disabled only?

To be honest, I never gave disabled stalls much of a thought. My policy has always been to use the regular facilities, unless there was a lineup, at which point, I think it is only fair to use the disabled stall. Why let a perfectly good toilet sit idle when someone needs to use it?

Now, if a disabled person was waiting for the bathroom, I would certainly be glad to let them have priority access to it. But this issue came up for me recently and has left me wondering if I was out-of-line or justified in my use of the disabled privy.

As previously mentioned, I have three children, including a set of twins, recently turned three-year-olds who have mostly managed the art of potty training.

Now one thing a mom of twins learns early on is the ‘monkey-see, monkey-do’ principle, which boils down to the fact that whatever one twin is doing, the other one needs to join in. This certainly applies for bathroom breaks, which also means that when we are out in public, if one child says they have to go, the other shares the same need.

The little ones are simply too little to handle ‘big person’ toilets on their own, so they need adult assistance. Because of the cramped and sometimes less-than-clean condition of regular bathroom stalls, I instead opt to use the larger handicapped stalls, especially when I have all three kids with me.

But I was recently given a thorough chastising for doing so, when, upon exiting a disabled public washroom stall with my three rug rats in tow, I was told in no uncertain terms by a senior with a walker that I should be keeping my hands, er, cheeks off the disabled toilet as it is for the disabled only, much like disabled parking spots are reserved for those with disabilities only.

I stammered an apology, pointing out that it is very difficult to manage three people in one regular bathroom stall, but she appeared unmoved. Afterwards, my own indignation built. This woman wasn’t waiting for that stall when I went in, so was I really wrong in using that stall? I know having three young children doesn’t make me disabled, but I don’t think anyone could deny that it limits my mobility.

I couldn’t find any municipal, provincial or federal legislation about it. No one seems to have a definitive answer for me, so I’m turning to the readers for their thoughts.

What is the etiquette of disabled bathrooms? Was I in the wrong? Or was I simply the target of an overzealous person whose opinion might have been influenced by pressure on their bladder? I’d like to know.


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