Disabilities, discrimination, Ethics, Philosophy, Politics

loo ethics

Should one use a disabled toilet if free? Why not? Just in case a disabled person arrives while you are in. But why should they not wait? Because they are disabled. So? It might be fair for them to wait while another disabled person uses it, but not for someone else. Why not? Because they are not disabled. And? They could have used other toilets. Why should they, if the disabled toilet is free? Just in case… ops, circular.


19 thoughts on “loo ethics

  1. So do you feel the same way about disabled parking?

    And do you think it’s wrong that cripples can park on double yellows? And for free in council car parks? Is that fair?

  2. Dave,

    disabled parking is different because there is the question of access. same for double yellow.

    On the whole, I think that only in extreme circumstances one should use disabled toilets; or when a building is empty.

    The point of the post was to ask for an argument for why one ought not to use them.

    Could you give me one?

  3. Blue Athena says:

    I think it depends how long you plan to be in there and also whether there is a line. Avoiding the one handicapped stall in a 2 or 3 stall restroom, when there is a line of 10 or 20 people could lead to some serious problems.

    Yet no matter what your line, if you think you may be spending several minures, I think you need to let the next person in line take the stall. Occupying this special stall for more than a quick pit-stop is irresponsible.

    But remember that you can’t know by sight why someone makes the choice. Many claustrophobics, for instance, use the larger handicapped stalls, as do people with subtle knee injuries who merely need the metal bar on the wall.

  4. Blue Athena says:

    As for why not to use them (for too long), as yucca asks, there are some cases where quick access is important. For instance, I have known someone who was pushing the chair of a woman with alzheimers and arrived in a restroom where someone was spending a very long time in the handi-capped stall. The person appeared not to be handicapped, although as stated previously one cannot be sure. But this did cause significant difficulty for the person who could not adequately explain the situation to the woman in the wheelchair. There are also some other special biological situatutions that I think I won’t go into.

    But you still never want to judge. A non-handicapped person may have a “crisis situation” brought on by food poisonin and make a rush for what at that moment is the only open stall. They may then spend an hour unable to move. Lots of possibilities…you just never know.

  5. Hi Blue Athena,

    I agree with most of what you say. Just one point: those cases in which quick access is important. Is quick access, in those cases, important especially because the person is disabled, or not? Because if not then, again, the question rises itself: why should they not, for example, endure?

    i mean, in general, a decent argument for why the disabled toilet should always be free is that people with disabilities should be compensated for what nature, the state, or other people have done to them. i dont have a problem with that argument, but im sure lots of people would. that was why i was after a different one

  6. Blue Athena says:

    Hi yucca, Yes, there are some conditions where people have bladder and bowel control problems that are either part of a greater handicap or are separate issues in themselves which require quicker than average access on a regular basis. Also certain resevoirs or waste need to be emptied sometimes which it is unpleasant to leave for longer than necessary.

    I also think your argument is valid, that people deserve some compensation for extra suffering. The same argument has been used for requiring men to drop the toilet seat rather than asking women to do it…a small price to pay for not having to endure childbirth and menstrual cramps.

  7. a small price to pay, also, for having been free-riding on patriarcalism for millennia, i would add…

    on the first point: are you proposing that people with bladder conditions should be granted access to disabled toilets on those grounds? i was actually referring to something different: my point was whether, if a disabled person REALLY needs the toilet, it would be unfair for them to wait; while we don’t normally think that it would be unfair for a non-disabled person to wait. it is on this point that, i think, an argument is necessary.

  8. Blue Athena says:

    I think that people with bladder conditions should be granted access to whatever stall is available, though if they have no other reason for chosing the handicapped stall and another is available they should take it.

    My argument is mainly, however, that people in a wheelchair are a lot more likely to have bladder and bowel conditions than the general populace and that should be taken into consideration if one thinks they will occupy this stall for any period of time.

    If such a condition doesn’t exist there is no reason (aside from your original evening of suffering) that they should not wait like anyone else. However, even then, it isn’t the same as “everyone else” because only one stall, not 3 or 4, is available to this person so the wait is likely to be longer on average.

  9. Okay, I admit the thing about the parking was a bit of a wind up. I was just trying to make you think I was painting you as discriminatory against handicapped people.

    I actually think that unless the is reason to believe that a handicapped toilet/stall might need access by a handicapped person on a very regular basis, there’s no reason not to use it. Many toilets/stalls have been fitted to meet statutory requirements, so that if a disabled person is present, they will have faciities available for them.

    For example, in my school in one of the newer buildings, there is a handicapped toilet marked “staff only”. There is no one on staff in our school in a wheelchair. In fact, there is no student in a wheelchair either. There is also no other staff toilet in that building. I think it is perfectly reasonable for non-handicapped members of staff to use that toilet.

    I may well be the only registered disabled person on staff and I would hate to think that my colleagues would feel compelled to not use that toilet, just in case I might be over in that building when my room is at the exact opposite end of a large school campus. I would not be offended if I had to wait.

    I know you wanted an argument for why one ought not use them. Sorry. I’ll see if I can come up with something later.

    I’m not sure I’m with Blue Athena on the toilet seat thing. I prefer a more chivalrous motivation, making it similar to open the door for a lady. If it comes down to compensating for suffering, I say where’s the compensation for having to put up with the PMT?

  10. Dave,

    I thought you were actually accusing me of discrimination (so i guess the wind up succeded)

    what you say makes me think that there might be a difference between toilets enabled for people with disabilities, and toilets ONLY for people with disabilities. and then one’s argument could just be that you should not use that toilet if you are not disabled just because it is only for people with disabilities. but why should they have reserved toilets? and the argument starts again…

    i knew PMT would come up; thats why i proposed “free-riding on patriarcalism for millennia” instead

  11. The ones I want to know about are the disabled toilets with the access keys or remote radio access (where you ring the intercom and talk to someone in a hidden booth somewhere who releases the lock). This seems to defeat the whole idea of quick and easy access.

  12. Pumpling says:

    I think the use of a disabled cludgie by a member of the non-disabled public is perfectly justified as long as they are not planning to remain in it for too long. The principle of having disabled loos should be to ensure that the facility exists in any given establishment, but this does not mean non-disabled people can’t also use it, especially when no disabled people are waiting to use it.

  13. yucca,

    The Beast ran into a few language difficulties upon first reading this post.

    “Disabled Toilets” initially conjured up images of broken porcelain overflowing with waste products and The Beast thought “Why would anyone want to use THAT?”

    Then The Beast considered the possibility that the words “if free” meant that in the UK public toilets had to be paid for except for the “Handicapped” ones.

    Now The Beast realizes that you are referring to unoccupied stalls set aside for handicapped people. In America we have special extra-wide stalls with rails to accomodate people in wheelchairs, but The Beast has never, ever, in all his wide experience of “going” in public seen a handicapped person using one. These stalls, in fact, are not specifically marked for special use – anybody is free to use them and The Beast often does. Ordinarily, if a handicapped person was using it The Beast would have to wait like anybody else until it was free, but the likelihood of a handicapped person rushing in to use it while The Beast is in it is quite low, don’t you think?

  14. Hi Beast,

    Please do consider that our linguistic clashes might have to do more with my not being a native speaker than with my being british… anyhow, here in Britain we do have toilets that are just for handicapped people… that’s why the problem arises.

    but yes, the likelyhood of you or me preventing an handicapped person from the swift use of her toilet is small… but is that good enough reason to use them, though?

  15. Yucca,

    Good to see so many comments on your blog – you are doing well.

    One can creep through life in terror at the idea that any of your actions may incommode or upset another, but that seems awfully stressful and a bit timid, particularly if the odds of so doing are incredibly tiny. The Beast has made it to the ripe age of 45 using whatever stall is available and never once denied it to a handicapped person. However, in this part of the country said stalls are not designated off limits with signs or anything, so there is no force of statutory law placing them out of bounds. Hence, unlike parking spots, they are fair game.

    English is not your native tongue, huh? You do wonderfully with it.

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