Denied Access to Disabled Toilet Despite Medical Condition

Almost three months ago, when I traveled to Marylebone Station in London in the middle of May, at the time I had my colostomy bag (I am now carrying an ileostomy since June).

As I am in need of urgent access to disabled toilets which provide water to clean the device, after coffee with friends, I went to the Marylebone Station toilets and found the disabled toilets locked. I spoke to the attendant, a black lady, and asked her if I might use the toilet. She replied very unhelpfully and rudely, "What for?" I explained that I had a colostomy. Again, she was unhelpful and rude, "What's that?" I then produced a card supplied with the device by Ostomart Ltd, which clearly explains my condition and states in bold and capitalized writing, "The holder of this card is wearing a special medical appliance... Please allow them to use your facilities URGENTLY and without causing any fuss or embarrassment." I was shocked and dismayed that the attendant still did not adjust her attitude and completely disregarded the card, saying, "What is this? Anyone can have it." In the end, it took a lady behind me to interrupt and argue with the attendant that the condition was serious before she was eventually motivated to open the toilet door.

This was a most embarrassing and tiring experience for me and is something that I am keen no one else should have to endure. I can understand members of staff not being aware of specific medical conditions and also wanting to ensure that only disabled people use this toilet, but to seemingly deliberately obstruct a disabled person from using it is wholly unacceptable and really distressing...

That is a total shame that you had to endure that. In all my years with an ileo (32) I never even came close to anything like that. The first thing I do in situations like that is slowly and carefully get the name of the person. Usually, they have to wear a name tag if they are in any 'official' capacity. I read it out loud and jot it down. Then I copy and ask for any identifying information like a badge number etc. Then of course I ask for the name(s) of any supervisors that that person might have. And, believe me, I have done this, if I happen to have my small digital camera with me I will take their picture. After all this, they do realize that I am serious about taking this further and they come to the conclusion that it is not worth losing a job over it. I also tell them that I will report their action to the local newspaper which I always looking for stories like this one. I am sorry you had to endure what you did.

Mettajojo - What a sick feeling I got reading what you went through, which has nothing to do with my own ileo. I'd think anyone would agree that the attendant was so out of line. I'm so sorry you had to deal with such ignorance. Of course, no one expects the rest of the world to know anything about our situations, but the way you were treated, one would think that by letting you use the bathroom, she would have to give up her first born. Without question, that %$)#@(@* should be reported. I generally would never want to see someone lose their job, especially if I was involved in getting that person fired, but would have no regrets with that one. I agree with Xerxes 100% - someone like that has no business working with the public!

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I read and very much appreciated your post which reignited my memories and raised my emotions somewhat. I had a similar experience before my ostomy when I was incontinent of feaces but did not consider myself 'disabled'. Despite a desparate plea, a security guard at a local supermerket would not let me into the toilet for disabled people. That was until I actually s**t myself in front of him.(In those days I only had about one minute's grace before the anal plug would dislodge and S**T would go everywhere!)After that I got letters from my doctor and social services stating that I was indeed a registered 'disabled person' and needed a toilet immediately.The letters also stated that I needed a bicycle to aid my mobility! I had bought a fold-up bike with one of those extra thin saddles so that I could use the saddle as an additional anal plug and actually cycle right into the toilet. Interestingly, this somewhat flambouant way of extending the time between sensation and expulsion never once attracted the same unhelpful response I had experienced before.Also I obtained the 'master-key' for disabled toilets. (they are available for registered disabled people through most suppliers of goods for disabled people) This allowes me to access those toilets that are deliberately locked to the general public. I agree with the other posts that you should be publicising this experience to those who can do something to prevent this sort of thing happening in future. I am not necessarily in favour of people losing their jobs but there should be a responsiblility on employers to educate and train their staff on how to deal with the general public in a courteous and helpful way. (this is especially pertinent to vulnerable people)Thanks for sharing!Best wishesBill

Yes, I hear you loud and clear... I had an experience here in the country in Aust. Was asked by a woman, "Oh, do you have a baby?" She needed to change her child's nappy! (diaper?) I still went first, wasn't the nicest experience, was pretty pissed off about her attitude. She soon changed hers and then we were both upset with the situation. I was at the door first! Sorry to hear that, hun... Mooza - Australia.xx

Getting Support in the Ostomy Community with LeeAnne Hayden | Hollister

I have yet to have a problem when in need of a washroom; however, I do have a disabled parking permit. I have had issues with people about me parking in a handicap spot. They only see this young woman get out of her car and go into the store, they have no clue that if I park way at the other end of the lot I'll be buying a new outfit as well. Now when I get the look or a comment about me parking in the spot, I simply a cop buddy, I'll be back out in 15 minutes. I have also had one old woman actually summon a cop while I ran into the grocery store, not to shop either, and when I returned, he asked to see the permit and my license, to which he apologized to me for the hassle and turned to the lady and said, "She's parked legally; it's her permit." Well, I couldn't just get in my car and leave quietly, noooo. I said to the lady, "Not everyone that is disabled is in a wheelchair or 90 years old!" THEN I got in my car and left. Some people are just so rude.

Sorry, this happened to you. Unfortunately, ostomies are still a mystery to most people who don't have them. It is not a subject that comes up at your average cocktail party. I can tell you that if I am ever challenged about using a disabled bathroom, I will pull down my pants, take off my pouch, and hand it to the moron who is quizzing me. I will say, "Here, empty this for me and rinse it out so I don't have to inconvenience anyone." I predict it will only happen once, and word will spread quickly. I believe that impertinent morons need to be taught a lesson and embarrassed. Blowing it off ensures that the behavior will continue. I have taught many people valuable life lessons following this philosophy. Embarrassment is not soon forgotten. Let's re-educate people!

Love your cajones, funnygurl. Is this deal with a key to disabled toilets a regional type of thing? Can only go by one's own experience, but from what I've seen in the U.S., while some bathrooms in very few places may be locked, like in supermarkets, where you have to get a key from someone, in most places, there are one or two stalls for disabled people among one to a lot of regular toilets. Generally, no key is needed. Earlier this week I confessed to having done something on someone else's blog. Here's my second confession of the week. A number of decades ago I went to the supermarket and as I walked to the store from the parking lot, passed a man getting out of his car, which was parked in a handicap spot. It was at night and I didn't notice if there was anything on the car showing that the person was handicapped (I really HATE that word, but guess it puts a lot of info into one word). All I saw was a perfectly healthy-looking man get out of his car and go toward the store. Not one to let a perceived injustice go by without putting in my two cents' worth, I said "You don't look handicapped to me" as I walked by him. His response was "For your information, young lady, I have a wooden leg." Funny how I can look back now and remember EXACTLY what each of us said so long ago. The only response I could come up with was "Sorry. I'm just looking out for people like you." Just realized how easy it's been for me to stick up for someone else. I don't have a handicap hanger hanging from my mirror or handicapped license plates, but this is one issue with which I'm familiar with both sides. For me, the challenge is to use tact instead of jumping on someone's case when I think that person is acting in a selfish way at others' expense.

The key is, I think, a European thing. I have never encountered it in North or Central America. Morons are, I think, a universal problem but the cure is simple - re-education.

People are so ignorant sometimes. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I have been challenged about disabled toilets too, usually by other people with disabilities. I have been tempted to empty my bag on their feet too, haven't but would love to shut them up :)

Thank you all for your reply, I did feel wanting to teach her a lifelong lesson and really tempted to open my colostomy pouch and spill on her at the time when she failed to recognize/acknowledge the card I produced. Unfortunately, I cannot remember exactly the date in the middle of May to report; I then went for my ileostomy operation in early June. I don't expect people to be aware of all types of medical conditions, however, it is the attitude; ignorance and rude tongue are humiliating. Have a nice weekend, Jo

In general, would the station manager take notice or investigate if I could not provide an accurate date for the incident? And how should I bring up the issue to their awareness but not risk the attendant's job? I am not a native English speaker, so I'm not sure how to make it sound moderated.

I have no clue how things work in Europe, but like others on this site, I generally speak up about any issues I may have. My problem is that when I get really angry, I'm often not as tactful as I would like - although dealing with others in a tactful way was one thing my husband said he learned from me. If this happened to me in the U.S., whether I remembered the date or not, I would approach the appropriate person, let him or her know I had an incident I'd like to discuss but it's important to me that the person in question suffers no serious repercussions. However, some retraining is definitely in order. I'd describe the woman as well as I could as well as what happened. Let him or her know that: 1) Staff members who hold the key should have at least a basic understanding of what an ostomy is and why the toilet for the disabled is far more conducive to getting the job done. You may want to show that person any card or letter you carry for this purpose and explain how not everyone in your situation is as comfortable with it as you sometimes there's no time to explain. No further explanation should have to be given to the attendant, especially in front of others. 2) Employees who deal with the public can benefit from extra training in the art of dealing with others, since this requires a specific skill set which, for some people, doesn't come naturally. In cases like this, especially, a little extra sensitivity would go a long way. You're a much better person than I, Mettajojo. In my not so humble opinion, people like the woman you described really have no business in a job dealing with the public. I may sound cold so I apologize in advance, but it's not the least bit heartless to feel that someone with a situation like ours, as well as anyone else with a medical issue, deserves to be treated with respect and sensitivity, rather than humiliating tactics.

I have had the same experience myself not long after surgery. I had to get off the bus extra quickly as the bag had come off and needed to get it changed. At the bus depot, there was a shopping centre and I asked the cleaners to let me in and explained why. They ignored me and just told me that I'd have to wait 30 minutes as the loos were not open yet. I went and asked one of the staff in one of the shops if they had a toilet and explained why and what the cleaners had said. He was not best amused and told the cleaners to let me in. The two cleaners stood outside the disabled loo that I was in and had a good laugh at me. When I came out, I told them a few home truths about what an ileostomy was and why I had it. That took the smiles off their faces. I know how that experience made me feel, so I have a little understanding of what you went through, and I'm sorry that you had to, too. It's made me a stronger person. I educate people and have done for over 3 and a half years. Keep your head up and smile. You are better than that woman will ever be.

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