I usually refrain from venting here unless I have some meaningful coping mechanism or solution to offer, today that is not the case. Today I am discouraged, beaten down, disappointed, and downright angry.
I feel these things because yesterday on social media I was called a worthless, disgusting, piece of excrement (they used less kind words). Why? Merely because I am a disabled wheelchair user who deals with incontinence.
A picture was posted on a media platform about a supposedly “upgraded” accessible bathroom in a business. It was clear upon viewing that whoever “upgraded” this bathroom had no experience using a restroom as a disabled person nor did they consult with anyone who has. There were many features that were not accommodating on a basic level. I chose to point out a few issues that would be problematic for everyone not just the disabled.
Most obviously there was no trashcan or safe disposal bin in the stall. People mobility impaired or not deal with incontinence, catheters, colostomy or similar. Where does this business suggest we safely dispose of these items? Are we to hold them while we complete our bathroom business and carry them out of the stall to the still inaccessible tiny trashcan mounted too high with a narrow opening next to the exit door? Where we have to pass anyone else coming in or out of the stalls? I’ll tell you from experience adult diapers do not fit in that pitiful bin with the opening the size of a small envelope. That humiliating experience is deemed an “accessible” bathroom?
I have been in inaccessible bathrooms where people were not willing to endure that humiliation. They left their pads, diapers, and wipes that cannot be flushed on the floor next to the toilet in the stall. While I deeply understand their predicament that behavior is a sanitation risk. People with young children might usher a child into the stall before they see it. crawling children can go under stall doors and reach it.
By businesses not providing a safe dignified way to dispose of such products they are creating a public health and sanitation risk. Let me restate this to make it unmistakably clear. We as disabled people are not the sanitation risk! We have not chosen to have our mobility and bodily functions fail us. The majority us are more prepared and hygiene aware than the general population. We are aware of having to touch the push rims or electric controls of our wheelchairs and the handles of our crutches. We are prepared for poor facilities by packing easily sealed bags to carry and properly dispose of our used items in a clean and safe fashion. We carry wet wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, and more.
We should not be afraid to use public restrooms. We should not be forced to fester in a wet pad or diaper until we get home. We should not have to suffer the indignity of stains on out clothes from leaking bags because the world is unwilling to adapt to fit a variety of needs. It is truly an unwillingness; not an inability to better.
This business so proud of its still inaccessible bathroom surely spent a lot of money to end up with only one advantage, a single larger stall. Without seeing the door hinge in the photos I cannot even tell you that stall will be accessible! I have seen stalls where the door is installed to open inward meaning anyone using a wheelchair cannot close the door once inside. I assure you these places are out there and there are photographic and video evidence of it.
The kicker of this incident on social media? After being told how utterly disgusting I am, that my disability makes me a risk to public health and safety in such rude terms, I reported it. For once in the over 11 years I have participated in social media they took it down! But today the first thing I saw upon logging in was that they had reversed their decision, reinstated the comment, and now it stands to live as a forever memento of not only my humiliation but everyone who suffers the same issues.
Three others chimed in that not only was I correct about the lack of accessibility but supported me against the rude commentary. Three people spoke up against the over 70 “likes” on the comment telling me how disgusting I am and surely hundreds if not thousands more who saw it and did nothing. I saw something, I said something, I reported something, and my experience as a disabled person and my degradation at the hands of another were entirely disregarded.
This is nothing new in my life or to others like me. The first concrete memory I have of someone of authority telling me how worthless I was I was thirteen years old. My body was failing me, doctors couldn’t be bothered to find out why and referred me to a therapist. The therapist having no medical training deferred to the doctor and insisted I simply must try harder. Going back to that doctor after seeing the therapist I was told in clear language that if I didn’t try harder to overcome my personal failings I would never be a worthwhile adult who could contribute to society.
In retrospect I now know that my “personal failings” were caused by a genetic disorder. In the 15 years between that comment and my diagnosis I had those comments in my head and more added to them. By so called friends, extended family, and people I knew through school or extra curricular activities. Hundreds upon hundreds of comments, snide, sarcastic, underhanded, or bluntly stated that I am inferior and its entirely my own fault.
So thank you society for being more wholly dreadful than helpful or supportive. Thank you for ensuring the disabled are encouraged to be neither seen or heard. Thank you for making us feel entirely unwelcome in the public sphere because of our differences. After years of these instances thank you for beating me down to the point I see no way out of this disheartening mire.
Fear not blogosphere the emotional state I find myself in is not permanent. I will not stop my activism. I will not stop reporting these incidents of harassment and bullying. But for today this is my piece and today I am done.