The first time I used a disabled toilet was not a pleasant experience...
This was the ‘80s and I was a ‘normal-looking’ young man who was newly diagnosed with MS. Just using a disabled toilet seemed like a “look at me, look at me” moment.
Until I recently started blogging about it, my MS wasn’t something I wanted to broadcast. But back then, crossing over the threshold of the blue cubicle doorway, meant I was doing just that. In truth I was filled with fear that as an ordinary-looking person I would have to explain myself if I was challenged.
Using a disabled toilet was daunting
I write this now because of the current invisible illness awareness campaigns that are trying to make life better for the disabled community.
However, back in the ‘80s, if you weren’t in a wheelchair or felt well enough not to use a stick, then using the facilities was a far more daunting affair than it is today.
Or, maybe not.
MS and bladder problems
Last year I went to the theatre but given the activity of a bladder that’s totally owned by MS, I had to use the disabled lavatory in the foyer.
Although being a disabled toilet patron does allow for a lot more freedom these days, sadly not all attitudes have moved with the times.
On this occasion I’d left my stick with my wife who was waiting for me on the other side of the loo. As I opened the door to exit, I was faced by a woman who, the moment she clapped her eyes on me, had a face like she was chewing a wasp.
“I had the audacity to look normal”
She looked me up and down, then loudly and angrily began to remonstrate with me for having the audacity to look normal and be where I shouldn’t. This in turn led me to cry out, “I’ve got special needs!”
I don’t know where that primal scream came from, as I never say things like that. Even as I write I still can’t believe I said it. But it happened. Her face was a picture and for that it was worth my own humiliation at the expense of hers.
Thankfully my wife quickly came and rescued me before I blurted anything else out. I thought she was going to have a stern word with me for making a fool of myself, but she never did. She was too busy trying to suppress her laughter about my outburst against someone who, in this day and age, should really have known better.
Martin is a writer and literary consultant. You can read more of his blogs at martinbaum.co.uk