So in my last post, I promised you more insights into my world in a wheelchair. Well, for your reading pleasure, a little more about this new world I'm learning to navigate.
Okay, so the setting for this story is the de Young Museum. Specifically, the loo. Like any lady, I had to go several times while I was there, so I have three stories to share about the horribly crappy design of stalls for wheelchair users at this particularly great museum.
1. The first restroom I used was overrun by small, wild children. Normally, I adore little ones. They make me laugh. But when you're in a wheelchair, they have no idea how much space you need or that you cannot go around them as they run in crazy zigzags down the narrow hallway leading to the bathroom. But kids aside, the restroom was designed by someone begging for a lawsuit. The only large stall in this bathroom was immediately behind the entry door that pushed in on the bathroom. At first I thought, "How convenient! I don't have to go far." But then I realized that I faced the threat of being smacked by the heavy door as I tried to navigate my way into the stall. And oh, did I mention the stall door swings out? Generally this is ideal, but when you have two doors that swing towards each other, and your wheelchair is positioned between them, things get dicey. Luckily, my mom had my back.
In the stall, things got even more frustrating. There was a changing table for babies. Well, the last user had left the changing table down. Now, I understand things are tough when you have small kids, especially if they are crying and you are tired and all that stuff. But it really sucks when you are in a wheelchair and there is a huge, heavy changing table at eye-height (yes, I'm still short) that is open and blocking a quarter of the stall. Fortunately, my mom took care of it. Had I been on my own, that would have been enough to make me want to find another restroom. (And being 33 and needing your mom's help in the loo is not my idea of a good time.)
Once all those issues were resolved, I was feeling good. The stall looked massive by non-wheelchair standards. Maybe 4'x6'. But my wheelchair's turning radius is crap and it took me about 8 points to do a do a three-point turn into the stall. Maybe this is the point where I should mention that no one ever taught me how to properly transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet. Yeah, I'm sure I'm doing it all wrong. But hell, I'm doing my best and it seems to work, eventually.
Finally, I get the stall door closed, back up my wheelchair so its parked next to the toilet and then carefully hop around my chair's legs to seat myself on the throne -- ever so thankful for my less broken foot which can bear weight, my decent balance and the handrails which keep me from wiping out in the loo. Relief, at last!
2. The second bathroom at the musuem seems like an improvement right off the bat. The entry door doesn't bash into any of the stall doors! I spot the stall with the large door, which to me says "hey, I'm wheelchair accessible!" I open the door, which swings outward, like it should. And then I stop in my tracks. The stall is small, regular size. With no room to turn around or park next to the loo. So I think, maybe I'm supposed to pull in facing the loo and then spin on my less bad foot and sit down on the throne. So, I pull in until my knees are almost touching the toilet. Gross! And still, I cannot close the stall door behind me; the stall's not deep enough. Crap! Now I must find another place to take a leak.
3. After wasting precious time on a worthless stall with an extra wide door, I spot another stall with a large door at the end of the row of stalls. I wheel down there only to feel like a fool as I try repeatedly to open the stall door towards me. As I'm already very short, I peek under the door. No feet. The stall is not occupied. As a last ditch effort, I push the door in. It swings open. What?! I thought the doors of wheelchair stalls were always supposed to swing out. Something about not getting trapped in case of an emergency? Okay, so maybe I made that up. But really, since when have these doors been permitted to swing in? And with all the room available for that door to swing out, why would anyone make it swing in? Just another hassle I have to deal with as I silently imagine myself doing the pee-pee dance (which I can't do because I'm seated in a wheelchair).
Once in the stall, I'm delighted to see how much space there is. It's massive! I can twirl in circles all day. However, the "parking space" next the loo is on the opposite side as the last stall. So now I get to hop in the other direction and try not to biff as I use my other, weaker arm, to hold on the rails and navigate the stall. Really, is there no consistency between stall designs, even at the same musuem?
Well, just in case anyone who has any say in designing public restrooms is reading this, here are three designs that should be chucked (or in the case of #3, just modified so the door swings out by golly)!
3. So close. If only the door swang out, instead of fooling us into thinking it was occupied!
So there you have, the world of wheelchairs, part two. I'm not saying there will be a third one. But any thing is possible.