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Public restroom where the large stall has a sign saying it is for the handicapped and people with ostomy bags

Public Restrooms: The Dilemma of Using “Disabled” Toilets

Prior to having my bladder removed, I never gave “disabled” toilets a second thought. In fact, I would walk past them and assume that they were for use only by people in wheelchairs, given that the “disabled” signage on the door tends to usually show a figure of a person sitting in a wheelchair.

I recently read an article asking its readers what a ‘perfect’ disabled toilet would contain for a person with an ostomy. Some really good ideas were shared.

Being made to feel guilty

However, I don’t know about you but I’ve often been made to feel quite guilty by using these conveniences. The sideways glances and murmurings of others used to make me feel quite uneasy.

I was recently sitting in an airport lounge awaiting a long haul flight. In the lounge, there was a “disabled” toilet. I’m always just a little anxious that my ostomy bag is in good order for the flight, and I like to give it a good check over before boarding.

I wanted to check to make sure my bag was secure

So, it was about an hour before my flight was due to depart, and I needed the bathroom. This would be a good opportunity to take a closer look at “my bag” to check that I felt comfortable and secure. I also at this point add some elastic barrier strips. These are designed to prevent the edges of your barrier from lifting and keep your barrier securely in place. They are elastic, so they’re able to move with you as you bend and stretch. This can provide greater security and peace of mind that your bag will stay in place. (Basically, they are like a large half-moon shape, see-through plaster that you “stick” over the edges of your base plate to give greater security and can aid in your “bag” lasting for longer.)

Deciding to use the disabled toilet for space and privacy

So, I went to the disabled toilet to check that everything was okay and to add the elastic barrier strips. I chose to use the disabled toilet as it gives me more room and also gives me more privacy.

As I approached the disabled toilet, I could see a couple of members of staff give me a kind of dirty look as I entered, but I thought no more about it. I entered and went in my bag to get my elastic strips out. Darn, I had put them in my hand luggage case. So, I pulled my clothes up so I could give my bag a thorough check and would have to return to add the elastic barrier strips.

Standing waiting outside the restroom

I returned a little later to the disabled toilet to add the barrier strips. I was standing outside waiting for a good while when a member of the lounge staff came and asked what I was doing. She informed me that the toilets that I should use were outside of the lounge down the corridor and that the disabled toilet had been locked!

You see, the staff had looked at me and decided just by looks that I didn’t need to use the disabled toilets and was, in fact, abusing them! I was furious. Firstly, who are they to judge? Secondly, why hadn’t they put a note on the door?

Not all disabilities are visible

I insisted on seeing the lounge manager to make a complaint, but also, I wanted them to be aware that not all disabilities are visible.

Lots of apologies were given, which I accepted. But before leaving, I gave them a little talk about “ostomies” and why we would need to use a disabled toilet. Hopefully, by educating the staff, the next ostomate may not be questioned – or worse, have the disabled toilets locked on them!

Have you encountered any issues when using a disabled toilet?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • munch
    9 months ago

    I have been reprimanded about using a disabled toilet, also questioning looks. But I am ready to speak!!
    The main problem I find is that there are not shelves near the washbasin, tomlean against whilst changing the bag. No where to hang ypur emergency kit, wet floors….. not good! I have beaten the drum at my local hospital about this.

  • Shirley Norris moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi there Munch. Its great to hear that you are not afraid to !speak out” when reprimanded. I don’t believe that people set out to be nasty, its usually a lack of understanding and ignorant of our “hidden” disabilities.

    However, I totally agree with you, the facilities for us “Ostomates” can certainly leave a lot to be desired. I do think that some companies are now starting “to hear” us and some disabled loos, include all of the things you mentioned and some even more. But i’m sorry to say that they are very few and far between.

    So we all just have to keep “banging that drum” to get ourselves heard and what WE need. – Shirley

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