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I was assaulted for using an accessible toilet

TraveltoRecovery Member Posts: 1 Listener

My name is Jenni. After Breast Cancer treatment, I was left with mobility issues and chronic fatigue which affect my day to day life. I started travelling as I realised how short life can be and I wanted to see the world. I set up Travel to Recovery, a travel blog to offer tips and advice to other disabled people on how travel is still possible. I want to encourage everyone to live their travel dreams.

I am in my 30’s and when I am not having treatment I look well. Not all disabilities are visible. I must admit before I had cancer treatment, I might have looked at some people and thought there was nothing wrong with them. Now I am more aware of disabilities, I am a little ashamed of how I might have perceived others in the past, but I know I would never have intervened and stopped them from using any disabled facilities. For a start is it none of my business and secondly in this day when people who have disabilities do not sit and hide at home but try and get on with daily life, you never know someone’s circumstances.

I have had people stopping me from going into disabled toilets. I have a radar key, I have a blue badge, I have incontinence issues and when I need to go, I need to go. Sometimes when I use a walking cane nothing is said but if I go in without mobility aids, the looks I get are hurtful.

jenni stood with thumbs up wearing a scuba diving mask with blue sea in background

I know people are thinking I am not entitled to use these amenities and I wish more than anything that I didn’t have to use disabled facilities but sometimes I do.

One day I was desperate for the toilet. My medication can cause chronic diarrhea which is embarrassing enough but as I opened the toilet door a lady hung onto the door handle shouting “you have no right to go in there, this is for people who are in wheelchairs”. She was screaming at me in a hysterical manner: I was actually a little worried for my safety I thought she was going to attack me.

At first, I was in complete shock. I get self-conscious as it is using disabled toilets, but to have someone shouting at me and then people walking past having a good old stare I felt so humiliated. I had to get her off the toilet door before I had an accident and my main concern was getting into the toilet, so I just shouted “I have cancer and I am about to **** myself”, and I managed to pull the door shut.

Luckily I got to the toilet in time, but as the situation hit me I got really upset. I was alone, and I didn’t want to go outside in case she was still waiting for me or if there were other people ready to shout at me. What right does anyone have to humiliate someone like that?

It made me self-conscious for quite some time. I don’t use disabled toilets unless I need to, but people need to change their attitudes. Just because someone doesn’t look disabled, it doesn’t mean they’re not.

Have you had similar experiences with accessible toilets? Do tell us about it in the comments below!


  • AnkyieSpon
    AnkyieSpon Member Posts: 138 Pioneering
    @TraveltoRecovery I am so sorry you had to experience that. I really don't understand what people are thinking when they behave this way. I have IBS so I have been in urgent situation like yours ?. 
    I remember the first time I was given that look. I was at the theater, west end not a local one so was totally shocked when I asked for the key to the disabled toilet that I was looked up and down and asked why? She then saw my tfl badge "please offer me a seat" but still looked judging me. I got really upset. I only used disabled toilet when I'm in slot of pain, or fatigue is very bad, or other toilets have lots of stairs. The manager came over to see what the problem was as I was getting upset and by this stage there was a cue and he did the same. I was disgusted! I've had the same at my local gym when I asked for disabled shower key and I educated the lady in not all disabilities are visible and they should get with the times and change sign to accessible like other places were doing. The next time she saw me she had obviously done her research as she could not stop apologising.
    My disabilities are not visible all the time and I refuse to explain myself to anyone. I refuse to use the words disabled toilet or disabled parking, I have made myself use accessible and do my best to make other do the same. Well done for starting the blog, I look forward to following it. 
    (Ankyie Spon)
    I'm a Pain Warrior
  • Sweetscienceind
    Sweetscienceind Member Posts: 1 Listener
    We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied like that.  Call the police or store security and make a complaint.  People stare at me when I park in disability spots and I’m practicing staring right back and if they are challenging I ask “do you have a problem “.  I’m not strong it’s hard for me to be confrontational but I remind myself that the other person is a bully and I know then that people really dont like bully’s xxxx
  • Pippa_Alumni
    Pippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,798 Disability Gamechanger
    Welcome to the community, @Sweetscienceind, and thank you for sharing this with us!
  • Firefly123
    Firefly123 Member Posts: 525 Pioneering
    My son has been shouted at also he has autism learning difficulties vision problems and a few other things had wet himself a few times and is older now so when he needs to go he needs to go can't use the mens toilet as hand dryers and toilets flushing scare the life out of him. He has a radar key disabled bus pass and a blue badge. Anyway this couple saw him going into the toilet and started kicking the door and shouting abuse at him. Obviously I gave them a piece of my mind and explained to them they have no idea just by looking at anyone if they should or should not be allowed to use it. My poor son would not come out was so scared and now hopes he makes it home in time. They have no idea the damage they cause. 
  • vapegirlclouds
    vapegirlclouds Member Posts: 10 Connected
    This is a good thread.
    I'm in a workplace with 2 female toilets 2 male toilets 1 accessible toilet and over 35 staff, visitors, engineers.
    I require the accessible toilet. Some days I can't access it due to high use it has so monitor what I drink, especially if I know there's visitors. This also isn't staff with accessibility needs thus is " use this toilet, it's closer" it's been left without paper, published etc. If it blocks I have to be escorted to another toilet in another building like a toddler. I've unblocked it myself to save this humiliation. It's blatant misuse. Yet when I complain I'm wanting to restrict use. That's not the case at all. I want all those with needs to be able to access it. We don't have another choice. 
  • Daffodil
    Daffodil Member Posts: 6 Connected
    I know this is a bit out of the frame but I consider that using toilets for disabled people is always a problem.  My mother was in a nursing home and severely disabled. Because the 'carers' complained about her constantly calling for the toilet she stopped drinking so that she would not need the toilet so much.  This caused terrible problems as she was taking so many tablets.  She eventually died of a massive burst ulcer in her stomach. I consider that this was due to the tablets being so strong and her not being able to drink enough water.
  • AnkyieSpon
    AnkyieSpon Member Posts: 138 Pioneering
    @Daffodil thank you for sharing and so sorry for your loss. 
    (Ankyie Spon)
    I'm a Pain Warrior
  • g1gop
    g1gop Member Posts: 16 Connected
    Whilst I have not experienced it as bad as this, I have had bad looks and comments (I look fine but have amongst other things Fibro, arthritis of the spine, CF, etc,etc, Also like some due to meds, when I need to go....
    I used to go to the local pool to use the hot tub(the heat helps a great deal). I stopped going because ladies would use the accessible changing room (with shower) as their own private shower and spend a long time in there. I even had one who told me off for using it as it stopped her using it! By the time I had got out of the tub and waited to get into the changing room, I was freezing cold and in a deal of pain. Just not worth it!
    I have my own crusade about the emergency pull cords in toilets. Having fell once myself, it is a frightening experience! The number of these that are either missing or just unreachable is very high!(Some even cut off at the ceiling!).
    Why have we become in society that we look on disabled people with suspicion and treat them as though they are all faking it? I said to my Dr many times, I wish I had lost a limb instead of what has happened, I would of been able to cope better with that and at least people would not look on me as faking it.
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Posts: 8,847 Connected
    I’ve been abused by a grandmother with 3 grandkids who was then joined by railway station staff. If it’s not visible then they just go for you.
  • DavidJ
    DavidJ Member Posts: 51 Pioneering
    My god you guys/gals !
    Its really hit home with me how brave you all are putting up with the **** you get . I myself have to get around in a wheelchair so I guess that I “ look “ disabled . I have never been challenged at the toilet itself I must confess. It’s society’s perception of disability that’s all wrong . Years ago it was well known that disabled people had bits missing and no one thought about invisible disabilities . With the advent of the PC and hand held phone life is moving at a much faster pace and news can travel around the world in nanoseconds now . 
    A friend of mine lost both legs and had to use a wheelchair for a long time. He has since then had two prosthetic legs fitted and he’s been challenged so many times it’s unbelievable .I think that’s why people with prosthetic legs wear shorts ! It’s not to show off it’s to shut up the tut tutting ones amongst us .
  • Waylay
    Waylay Member Posts: 971 Pioneering
    @vapegirlclouds I had a similar problem. I can stand, sit and walk, but the more I do the more pain I'm in, and the more likely I am to have a (disabling, agonizing) back spasm. In my last job there was only 1 toilet on our floor (the ground floor) and it was accessible. All the other toilets were up 1 or 2 flights of stairs (there's a lift), and were at least 50m further away.

    Everyone on the floor used that toilet! I'm sure that a few people needed to, but not all of them. It was often in use, and often for a long time. It ran out of loo roll, soap, etc. on a regular basis, was blocked at least once every 10 days, and someone habitually (and messily) shaved in there.

    I ended up sitting on the floor outside it multiple times, waiting, as I couldn't make it to the other loos, and I knew I wouldn't be able to return later. I went upstairs many times, and definitely had more spasms because of it. This meant more pain meds, leaving earlier, etc.

    I complained a few times, but the response was that I had no right to bar access to other people. I didn't want to bar other people from using it....
  • haushinka
    haushinka Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I have IBD (though it’s well controlled and rarely affects me in public), MS and ASD.

    I definitely restrict my fluid intake sometimes because otherwise I need to go very frequently. 

    I’ve only just started really using accessible facilities because none of my disabilities are particularly visible and I am worried about something like this happening to me! 

    Though I’m not sure how the previous poster knew the ladies at the spa didn’t ‘need’ the accessible shower? Though that’s the issue, we generally have to rely on people not being dicks because the alternative is risking accusing someone genuine. 
  • g1gop
    g1gop Member Posts: 16 Connected
    edited December 2018
    "Though I’m not sure how the previous poster knew the ladies at the spa didn’t ‘need’ the accessible shower?"
    Easy She had been diving, yoga and swimming in the main pool area. Then comes through to the spa area to change. She just like to have a 'private changing room/shower!
    I also had her have a go at me saying that this wasn't a disabled changing room but a shower for everyone to use!(there is a BIG sign on the door!!)
  • haushinka
    haushinka Member Posts: 2 Listener
    Fair enough. I just wondered because I use the accessible changing room despite being able to swim and dive (can’t do yoga though!)

    Exercise exacerbates my MS so once I’ve stopped my muscles can tighten up and become painful. Then I need the space and seating in the accessible room. 

    I also find the accessible room at my swimming pool is cooler- the heat in the main changing makes me dizzy and makes my MS symptoms worse. When I’m swimming the water stops me from overheating.

    The heat and acoustics in the main changing room can also contribute to a sensory overload (autism).

    Not all disabilities are visible.


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