Sometimes we get a question from a reader regarding posts that we've written. And we're nice people, so we like to respond to those questions! Both Chris and I offer our responses to this recent question from Liz in Washington, D.C.,
"A couple posts ago you mentioned that the accessible bathroom stalls are necessary to fit your wheelchairs in and I was reminded of a Dear Abby question I read once a few years ago that I felt never really got answered in the response...At a sporting event or such, if there are a lot of people in line, when does someone let a wheelchair user go ahead of them so that he can have the accessible stall - when the person using a wheelchair gets in line or when he gets close to the front? I was just wondering what your thoughts were on the issue. People got all sorts of angry on both sides in the comments if I recall correctly."
Dan: To me, I don't think I deserve to move to the front of any line simply because I'm in a wheelchair. So in a crowded bathroom, if the accessible stall is freed up, the next person in line has every right to take it. However, if there is more than one stall available, please leave the wheelchair stall empty. It's the only one I can use, while an able-bodied person can use any other stall. The one caveat to this would be if I were at a specific place in line where I happened to be directly in the doorway. This would block flow of traffic both in and out of the bathroom. Therefore, it would be justified to allow me to take a different place in line so everyone can move freely. To be honest, I feel weird if a person three spots ahead of me tells me to go first into the accessible stall. While I know it's just other people being nice, it seems as if I'm being singled out and being given special treatment.
Chris: Simply stated, handicapped accessible stalls should be reserved for users of wheelchairs. Obviously, crowded bathrooms like those at a sporting event or concert present a different set of issues. Perhaps one should use the 1-10 level of urgency scale. If the number is 7 or higher, please use the stall. I think it would be a bit narrow-minded to think that only people with disabilities should use the stalls. We should be given priority because those are the only stalls our wheelchairs actually fit into. But as far as I am concerned, if you take a little time to evaluate the situation, then no worries. Just realize that if you use the handicapped stall when other ones are open, when you come out and see someone like me or Dan waiting, then you will probably feel pretty stupid.