When "accessible" just isn't good enough.
Okay. So first we had the three-part series on Ally's Law, and now this. I'm sure more than a few of you are wondering if I've got some kind of obsession with restrooms... or as we used to say, "issues." If the truth be told, I do in fact have issues, and so today I'm going to rant a bit on those. Hang tight. You have been warned.
Rant #1: Retrofits.
Ever been to a public restroom which clearly was never meant to be an A.D.A.-compliant facility, but is now (barely) because it has been modified in some way? My favorite example of this is the restroom which is so small they only had room to retrofit one "stall" into the space, and if you're lucky, one sink. Navigation is a nightmare, and once you're safely inside, you're lucky if you've got 3 minutes to finish before someone else wanders in and starts jiggling the handle. No pressure there, eh? I'm lucky if I can even start in 3 minutes... but that's probably more than you want to know... so let's move on...
Rant #2: Disrepair.
Closely related to the "handle-jiggling" issue mentioned above is the general issue of repair. Why in the world is the restroom seemingly the last part of any building that gets a regular visit by maintenance? Stall doors which refuse to latch (or even stay closed at all), toilet seats which seem to be held in place only by luck and gravity, loose or missing handrails, and my favorite, the empty tissue dispenser. Any one of these is enough to make proper restroom use impossible... and lucky you if you chance upon one with multiple problems. Cleanliness is also an issue, but again I digress. It's enough to make you want to stop using public comfort stations at all.
Rant #3: Design Flaws.
This is a short one. Who's bright idea was it to place the paper dispenser so that the opening on the bottom was only 5 inches above the floor? You need the manual dexterity of a monkey to allow a comfortable reach up inside the demonic thing, and then some only allow you to pull out 2-4 paper-thin sheets at a time. If you can locate the free end of the roll. I swear, I'm going to start bringing my own paper (and duct tape for the door.)
Rant #4: Flooring.
Okay, so I sort of (reluctantly) get this one. Still, why design a restroom using a type of tile or linoleum that not only perfectly hides any water that's on the surface, but also gets as slippery as a side street sidewalk in January if so much as a light fog touches it? Hello! It's a restroom! It's going to get wet. Often. If you depend on crutches for mobility, as I do, you take your life into your own hands every time you venture into a modern restaurant's restroom. They get wet, and they get greasy. But they have to be able to clean it, you say? Agreed. But have you ever been "mopped into a corner" while using a public restroom? I have. Nothing dries slower than a public restroom floor. I expect to find a skeleton inside one some day.
Rant #5: Gender Bias.
This only becomes an issue if you need assistance in the restroom, and your friend/attendant/spouse happens to be of the opposite gender. Aside from gender-neutral restrooms (which may be the greatest invention of the modern era) you have two choices; use his, or use hers. Flip a coin to decide who's turn it is to be embarrassed. Been there, done that, moving on.
I'm agreed that most of my rants apply equally to "the abled" as well, and to them I raise a toast to our solidarity, and our common affliction. I also realize that when it comes to a restroom, no size fits all, and so some problems are just there to be endured. Still, I'd like to think that somewhere out there, perhaps even one of you reading this, is an inventor or engineer who will go beyond the cleansing value of my ranting and perhaps find solutions to some of these problems.
I can hope, and dare to dream.