Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

A Secret Trick to Making Wheelchair Accessible Washrooms Usable

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by at 7:12 pm on Monday, August 29, 2011

Another Accessibility 100 postSometimes it is the smallest detail that renders an accessible situation usable or not.

A few weeks ago, Darrell and I trekked to a nearby recreation centre to pick up a library book on hold. After scooting along jarring sidewalks for half an hour, I, of course, had to use the washroom.

Wheeling into the women’s washroom, I was immediately impressed by the amount of open space, particularly between the two rows of stalls. I had plenty of room to back my scooter into the wheelchair stall without the door crashing against the stall across the aisle.

However, once in the stall, I had no way to pull close the door. I tried grasping the lock to close the door, but as soon I adjusted my hand position to lock it, I lost my grip and the door swung open. I desperately tried again. And again.

I also tried my trick of holding the bottom of the door with my foot. But the door was too low and I just couldn’t manage the fancy footwork without falling out of my scooter.

After trying for ten minutes to close and lock the door, I aborted my mission. Not a comfortable decision for a middle-aged woman.

A display rack of door handlesThe solution?

A $3-$5 door handle, available from any hardware store, installed on the inside of the door would have made the door easier to pull close and to hold onto while locking it. This inexpensive solution would make an otherwise accessible space usable.

Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

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Comment by karen

August 29, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

I’ll be checking the insides of wheelchair doors (as will the kids) in bathroom stalls. Imagine if you had a sticker you could put on the door with this information! (I know, I know …)

Comment by Des Walsh

August 29, 2011 @ 10:26 pm


Maybe the stickers would work better on the foreheads of the architects and builders – and with a “if you don’t understand this, call Glenda …” message included.

Comment by Sophie

August 29, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

Thanks for the post. It is a good illustration of the fact that details matter when it comes to accessibility, and also that very often ‘partially accessible’ is actually ‘not accessible’ for someone.

Comment by Dave Neary

August 30, 2011 @ 1:54 am

Another pet peeve: I’ve been shocked when using wheelchair accessible toilets on a number of occasions by how far the toilet roll dispenser is from the toilet seat.

One example was in the Lyon chamber of commerce training center in Vaise. The toilet was very roomy, with a wide door and plenty of space for a wheelchair to turn. But it seems that the traditional “beside the toilet” placement was made difficult because of a handrail, so the dispenser was put on the wall opposite the toilet, over a meter from the toilet bowl – as a tall, able-bodied adult, I had to stand up to get toilet paper.

This lack of attention to detail reflects a lack of empathy on the part of architects, who have never tried to experience their work as their target audience would. If every architect had to road test their building in a wheelchair, including going to the toilet, you would quickly see improvement.


Comment by Douglas T

August 31, 2011 @ 5:04 am

Web accessibility is more my line, but you’ve inspired me to pay more attention to physical accessibility issues. I’m shocked at the poor planning I see on public facilities.
Would a small magnet on a cord or handle help with stall doors? They’re most often metal of some kind. Curious…

Comment by Society of Professional Locksmiths

December 17, 2011 @ 8:49 am

Good content, I will pass this along to the membership of the Society of Professional Locksmiths. I will also pass your experience along to other professionals in the door hardware trades. You have made a very valuable point and I wish to thank you! I ther eis anything my organization can do to assist you in getting to word out about ADA issue, just ask. We can even give you your own article space in our “zine” and blog. Be well!

Comment by Roger Wright

January 30, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

Good article, I’m sorry for your troubles but I see your point and its a very good one. Just an extra 5 minutes of time and a bathroom becomes that much easier to use from a wheelchair. I deal with this a lot with my brother who is wheelchair bound. I constantly am helping with doors or movement. Thank you for your story and I think I may just bring an extra handle and leave it with businesses I visit.

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