Public Bathrooms and Low Vision

Public Bathrooms and Low Vision

Posted under Guest Blogger David Goldstein

Low Vision and the public bathroom

I drink a lot.  No, not alcohol, mainly water.  Usually between two to three liters per day.  I supplement that with a mug of herbal tea in the morning and a trenta iced tea in the afternoon.  So, at various times throughout the day, I gotta go.

There are times when we are out making a delivery for our beauty supply business, or traveling, or out shopping, that I’ve got to use a public bathroom.  That is where the challenge begins for me.  Small, single-person bathrooms like those at Starbucks are usually not a problem for me.  I go in, turn on the light, do my business, wash my hands, figure out how to get the paper towels out, and exit.  These bathrooms may have an auto-flush toilet, but the sinks usually have to be manually turned on and off.  The paper towel unit is the most difficult thing to work for me in these bathrooms.  Sometimes they’re automatic and you just wave your hand in front to get a towel to come out.  Other units have a lever on the front of the unit that you pull down.  Some others have a wheel on the side that you spin to get the towel out.  Figuring out which type of unit it is, is my problem, but since there is no one else in there, I don’t feel uncomfortable figuring it out.

Then there are those large public bathrooms found in malls, hotels, rest stops on the highway, etc.  These are all very different.  The urinals are all pretty similar, with most now being automatic flush.  The sinks vary though.  Some are auto, while others have to be turned on manually.  This has posed a problem in the past.  Sometimes I cannot tell if there is a handle to turn the water on and I’ll just place my hands under the faucet.  After about 10 seconds I start to wonder if it’s manual and I’m not seeing the handle or it’s automatic and I don’t have my hands in the sweet spot.  I give it another five seconds and if water isn’t flowing, I feel for a handle.  This past summer, while traveling with my family, I went to wash my hands and water didn’t come out.  I felt for a handle and there wasn’t one.  I began to wonder if there was hidden cameras watching me try to figure out how to get the sink to work.  I went to another sink.  Nothing.  Then, on the third sink I tried, success!

Of course, my problem with these public bathrooms aren’t the bathrooms, they’re with me.  I don’t want to look or feel stupid doing what, for most, is a simple task of washing your hands or getting a paper towel to dry them.  Sooner or later I’ve got to learn to not worry about what others think, complete the task, and move on.


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