Dear People Who Design Public Restrooms

Dear People Who Design Public Restrooms:

Please stop trying to overly modernize public restroom. I understand that the growing trend is to have everything completely automatic, mechanical and green.  And to an extent, I totally get that.  Hey, I’m hip.  I’m in the now.  I like modern conveniences as much as the next girl.  But when it comes to modern conveniences in the restroom, my “next girl” is a handicapped one.  Not an able-bodied one.

Ok, let me explain what I’m talking about.  Let’s start with automatic flushing toilets.  For you to really understand what I’m going to be talking about, I’m going to need you to go do an experiment.  First, please go sit in an ice bath until your legs are numb.  Then, have someone tie weights around your ankle so there’s some good dead weight around them.  Now, go sit on a toilet and try to pull up and/or down your pants, without using your legs.  I’ll wait….

On the off chance you did not do that, I’ll break it down.  When you are paralyzed, pulling on or off pants is difficult.  It requires a lot of back and forth motions.  A lot of shifting from side to side.  Depending on the pant, it can be fast or slow.  (Really, it depends on just how skinny of a jean I’m wearing that day.)  The electric toilets are meant to sensor when a person moves from the seat and to flush accordingly.  Last week I was in a restroom and the toilet probably flushed 27 times between my pulling my pants down and back up.  Let’s ignore how embarrassing this was when I thought about what other women in there must have thought about what was going on in the stall.  It’s a huge waste of water.  (And probably electricity.  I’m not entirely sure how these things all work.)  But it can be even worse.  Last year (and this is the hubs’ favorite story) the toilet flushed while I was still pulling up my pants. And…the toilet overflowed.  While I was still on it.  I’ve never jumped so fast into my wheelchair.  I was pissed.  Almost quite literally.

Let’s switch from the electronic toilets to the electronic hand dryers.  How nice, you want to save trees.  I love trees.  And forests.  I’m looking at trees right now as I type this.  So, I can’t possibly have a problem with electric dryers, right?  Wrong.  In a bathroom with electric dryers, they are rarely right next to the sink.  This means that after I wash my hands, I have to wheel to them.  This means my hands are wet.  And then they’re on my push rims.  Now my push rims are wet.  that makes them slippery.  And, if I then dry my hands with the dryer, they’re going to get wet again when I use my push rims to exit said restroom.  It’s bad enough for a person in a wheelchair.  Imagine a person on crutches, a cane or a walker.  That’s just straight up dangerous.  So, while I appreciate that you’re trying to be environmentally friendly, how about being disabled friendly?  Maybe you could buy paper towels from companies who replant trees.  That would be both environmentally friendly and disabled friendly.  And if something like that doesn’t already exist, I whole-heartedly give you the right to start the company and make millions.  You’re welcome.

Finally, I find it somewhat ironic that you’re trying to be cutting edge and modern with the electric toilets and hand dryers, but most bathrooms don’t have automatic doors for disabled convenience.  Now, I probably wouldn’t use the button anyway, since I don’t in places that do have them.  But, why go half-assed with the electronics?  You’re going for modern with the others, why not at least add the one piece of electronics that would actually make a handicapped person’s life a bit better?


A flushed-on, wet handed paraplegic.

One thought on “Dear People Who Design Public Restrooms

  1. Humm, I am assuming that you are in the States, I haven’t read through your entire blog to figure that out. We the North, (Canada) have to follow certain code rules for public washrooms, both for Ontario where I am and of course another layer of bureaucracy the National code as well. These things spell out where and how all appliances are to go in a washroom, especially barrier free w/c’s. As an architect this whole process is annoying as they tend to superseded common sense. The auto flush is demanded by the Ontario code, the placement of the hand dryers by the fire code etc.

    We try to not have auto flushes placed anywhere, not only do you have a problem, most others do as well, perhaps not as frequently, but I am sure we have all had our privates rinsed when we did not want to. We tend to push (pardon the pun) for timed ones, this will auto flush at some interval, however only when there is no one on it.

    The hand dryer thing however is enlightening, thank-you. We cannot place them close to the sink due to water and electricity not mixing well and human beings a pretty good conduit. I shall however, moving foreword, at every opportunity, ensure to put a paper towel dispenser as close to the barrier free sink as possible, and will spread the word as well.


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