Thursday, May 8, 2014

Companion Restrooms at Walt Disney World - Who Are They For?

By Beth Skarp

      Being the mother of two special needs children, I have become more than intimately aware of where the Companion restrooms are located at Walt Disney World. 
There is of course a companion restroom located in all of the First Aid stations at the entrance to the parks, and several scattered throughout the parks and in Downtown Disney. We know exactly where they are located, so when we are in the area we usually make it a point to make sure that we avail ourselves of them if the need arises. 
      Companion restrooms are a necessity for my family. Why? I have two girls, one who is ambulatory but needs assistance and another who is not ambulatory and must be lifted from her chair onto the commode. I have a pediatric wheelchair that simply does NOT fit into a standard handicapped accessible stall. I need room not only for the wheelchair, but to safely transfer my daughter from her chair onto the commode. When we are forced to use the handicapped stalls, I really only have one option. By straddling the commode with my butt up against the wall near the flusher, I then use my not so long arms to lift my daughter. 

While straddling the porcelain throne, I must do the following: 
1. Gently lift her 90+ pound body out of the wheelchair over the armrests which do not remove 
2. Turn her around sufficiently in a very cramped space so I can work with her clothing 
3. Get her clothes down sufficiently so she can use the commode 
4. Be careful not to bump her bum or knees up against the toilet paper dispenser 
5. Get her seated on the side of the commode so she can do her business 
6. Hope that my arms and back will hold out long enough for me to reverse this process once she has done her duty. 

      While this is taking place, my other daughter is standing on the other side of the porcelain commode, attempting to keep the wheelchair from getting in our way. If my other daughter can “hold it”, she is waiting with her Dad outside until I can finish up with our wheelchair bound daughter before I can assist her. Not easy. 
      Could I just leave our wheelchair outside the stall door? Yes, I could just pick up my daughter then proceed into the handicapped stall. However, on more than one occasion I have unknowingly blocked someone else from exiting or entering an available stall and found our wheelchair other than where I left it. Our wheelchair is quite different from others. Depending on which one we use, it is either bright yellow or blue and even has our name clearly printed on the seat back. This has not prevented us from finding our wheelchair “careening” down the aisle with a teen or child sitting in the seat. I have even had one mother change a rather messy/leaking diaper on the seat of my daughter's wheelchair because “it was sitting here unoccupied”. I was forced to carry my daughter outside to her Dad, then go back inside and clean up a mess that I did not create in what was a clean wheelchair when I entered the restroom. 
      Yes, I can use a handicapped stall in a pinch. However, my back is out of whack for the remainder of the day, and I do wonder what “unwanted guests” we have picked up along the way. Let's face it, Disney does a great job of keeping their bathrooms clean—but do they always clean the outsides of the commode. I don't think so, as my daughter's or my pants and legs have shown on more than one occasion. 
Since we have girls, asking my husband to take one or the other of them into the Men's restroom is just not appropriate. My girls are both in their teens and well aware of the differences in gender. Besides, there are far fewer actual sit down stalls much less handicapped ones in the Men's restroom than in a Woman's. The same scenario as mentioned above would no doubt take place. 
This is why we need the companion bathrooms. 
These restrooms can and do accommodate not only the person seated in the wheelchair, but they allow for the “companion” or person who is assisting them to easily maneuver around without fear of injury—either to themselves or the person they are assisting. 
      Companion bathrooms are there for the individual(s) who can not easily or safely use the standard handicapped stalls. Both my girls can come into the companion bathroom along with the wheelchair. I am able to carefully and easily get my wheelchair-bound daughter onto the commode. I have room to get clothing down and adjusted without hurting my daughter or myself. I don't have to worry about trying to keep my pants or legs clean and germ free while straddling a porcelain throne. 
      What is nice about having a companion bathroom is Dad can take our wheelchair bound daughter if need be, giving my back a much needed rest from lifting her. He simply can't do that utilizing the handicapped stall in the Men's restroom. 
      I understand that families with smaller children like to use the companion restrooms. It does make it nicer to corral all of the kiddos up and get the job done quicker. I get that. However, Disney provides the Baby Care Centers for this purpose, complete with several changing tables and quiet areas where you can park the stroller for tending to your infants and toddlers needs. Many of the companion bathrooms do not have a changing table. 
       I understand too that you just want some “alone time” with your special someone too. However, taking 30 minutes to “relax” while someone is waiting on you is just plain wrong. Did you not realize we could hear what was going on in there? 
      So the next time you come across a companion bathroom, ask yourself if you really truly need to use it. This mother of special needs girls would enjoy being able to use them when we need to. They are there to accommodate those who need that special assistance not found in other bathrooms on property. 
      We promise to hurry up, to make the restrooms available for someone else in need. Thank you.


  1. I would never use a companion bathroom for the same reason that I wouldn't park in a handicapped spot. It's not necessary for me because I am able bodied but very necessary for many others.

  2. Beth, thank you for your well written article, I hope it will help people to understand why those rooms are available. Not for fun, but for people who truly need them.


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