Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Public Bathrooms

Disability TheoryToday on campus I was standing in line to go to the bathroom when the “handicapped” stall door swung open and a women exited.  I didn’t go to use the stall she left vacant because I fit the body type that most of our institutions are modeled around.  I don’t need access accommodations, something that I am lucky to say at this time in my life.

When I didn’t rush into the newly emptied stall a young woman behind me asked, “Why don’t you go in the big one?”  I politely let her know that I prefer to leave those stalls open for those that really need them.  The time I make an exception to this rule is if I am literally going to vomit, defecate, or urinate on myself.  (I figure I’m doing more harm than good if I shit on the public bathroom floor.)

The young lady looked perplexed and responded to me (within earshot of the woman that just exited!), “I don’t go into the big ones either.  They scare me.  Why is that seat so big anyway?”

I wish I could say that I calmly talked to her or even say that I erupted and called her an idiot, but the truth is I was so flabbergasted by her statement and subsequent question, that I just walked into the next available stall and proceeded to pee with a look of utter confusion and indignation plastered across my face.

Scared of the big one?  I’m scared that there is one stall for people with variant body types.  I’m scared that compulsory able-bodiedness is so prevalent that a fellow University of Utah student literally couldn’t comprehend why I would leave that stall vacant or understand why there were scary hand rails and a larger commode.

I regret that I didn’t say anything to that young lady.  I missed a great teachable moment today on campus.


  1. oh hell. i don't blame you for being in a state of shock. it really is a scary world out there.

Share Your Thoughts