UOAA Guidelines for Ostomy Friendly Restrooms
Public restrooms are extremely important for everyone, especially for digestive and urinary disease patients who are many times afraid to go out in public without knowing that there will be a restroom accessible to them.
Most handicapped restrooms have accessible accommodations for people with physical disabilities such as adequate stall space to accommodate those who are in wheelchairs. However, they often lack accessibility for people with other qualifying medical conditions such as people living with an ostomy, those who utilize urologic supplies such as catheters or those with feeding tubes. An example of an ostomy-accessible accommodation is a shelf near the toilet to provide a sanitary surface on which to lay out ostomy supplies.
It is important for those living with an invisible disability to have access to facilities that provide accommodations that will allow care of their vital needs such as emptying/changing/disposing of an ostomy pouch in a safe and clean environment.
Use UOAA Guidelines in your efforts to make a positive change in your local community.
Tips on how to advocate for accessible accommodations in the restrooms in your community
There are different things you can do to advocate and make this happen in your community:
- Get to know your community leaders and elected officials such as the Mayor and City Commissioners/Council Members and form relationships with them by scheduling meetings in their legislative offices.
- Attend community events such as public town meetings and speak to these leaders about the importance of making handicap restrooms more accessible to people with digestive and urinary diseases; bring other citizens that this impacts.
- Start a petition in support of restroom accessible accommodations where you obtain as many signatures from residents in the community as possible and bring them before your town governing body.
- Speak to the owners of the businesses which you frequent and explain to them what is needed in the restroom.
- Stress in your requests that items such as hooks and shelving are simple, inexpensive additions that can make a big difference.
- Share the downloadable guidelines for ostomy-friendly restrooms with your different audiences.
Change won’t happen overnight, but with persistence and dedication, your advocacy efforts may be met with success. Lynn Wolfson persuaded her town officials, resulting in the city of Weston, Florida making such improvements in all municipal buildings and others should follow their example.
You can find your local elected officials here.
Real Life Story: “A Very Awkward Situation”
A Very Awkward Situation
By Lynn Wolfson
The importance of having a shelf, hook, sink and paper towels in a handicap restroom stall is crucial for digestive and urinary patients. I have personally experienced disaster when I was alone in a handicap stall without these necessities while I was traveling from Illinois to Florida with my daughter. We made a bathroom stop at a supermarket in Arkansas. My daughter did a little shopping while I went into the restroom.
I went into the handicap stall with my medical feeding backpack. There was a large space with an elevated toilet, and a grab bar beside it. I sat down on the toilet with my backpack on the floor next to me since the hook behind the door was further away then my tubing could stretch. I went to empty my ostomy bag, when I noticed my wafer was beginning to leak. Good thing I had my service dog, Zev, with me who carries my extra ostomy supplies in his backpack.
I removed my bag of supplies from his backpack. My supplies included a small trash bag, adhesive remover wipes, ostomy powder, protective barrier wipes, a barrier ring, a wafer, scissors to cut the wafer, barrier strips and an ostomy bag. There was no place for me to put these supplies. So, I balanced them on my thighs while I removed the ostomy wafer and bag from my abdomen and placed them in the trash bag.
Then I went to use the adhesive remover wipes to clean my abdomen. I picked up the scissors and started cutting my wafer to my size and then my ostomy started shooting output everywhere!!! It soiled the supplies that were on my thighs that fell to the floor. My feeding backpack also got covered in output. My clothes became soiled and the floor was covered with my output. I did not have any more supplies with me. All I had was toilet paper which was not sufficient. Luckily, Zev had my phone in his backpack and I called my daughter who was shopping in the store to bring me more supplies and to help me. It was a very humiliating experience.
If there would have been a shelf at a seated level, my ostomy supplies could have been saved. A sink and paper towels would have allowed me to properly clean the mess. In addition, if there was a hook 5 feet above the floor by the toilet, my feeding backpack could have been hung and not been affected by my ostomy shooting output.
Therefore, there MUST be a shelf, hook, sink and paper towels in all handicap restroom stalls to preserve the dignity of digestive and urinary patients and avoid a living nightmare situation like this.