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#36 Public Restrooms -

Imagine you are at a restaurant or the mall and need to use the restroom. Chances are when in unfamiliar surroundings, you have had to ask someone, “Where is the restroom?” That’s the first step.

Ideally, the one you ask, or a friend offers to take you. It’s wonderful when friends realize the problems a new restroom presents.

If not, the one with low vision must figure out which is the men’s, and which is the women’s. With a Smartphone, a Be My Eyes call can solve this problem. Let’s say someone has already told you it’s the first door on the right, or whatever. So far, so good. The phone call can continue as the door is opened.

The volunteer who answers can describe where the toilets are. Is there just one, two, three, or a row of many? Then, where is the toilet paper? Does the toilet flush automatically, or with a button, or with a handle? Where is that button or handle?

Where is the sink to wash hands? And how frustrating to wash hands and not be able to figure out how to dry them. Is there a blow dryer? Perhaps, it’s a dryer where you put your hands inside, in front of, or underneath and it comes on automatically.

Where are the paper towels? How do you get one? Some are automatic where you put your hand in front of the box dispenser. Others have a lever on the side you must pull down or a lever underneath that you must push.

If paper towels are used in the bathroom, where is the trash receptacle?. If you have vision or have never gone to the restroom with someone who is blind, you might not have thought about these questions. I would bet when it comes to bathroom designs, no one asked a blind person for input. And they are all so different.

In the meanwhile, here are some suggestions that might help:

  • Using a white cane shows others vision is a problem. It might encourage someone to offer help. Using a public restroom is a super good argument for having the white cane.
  • Purse size Wet Ones can help in several ways: wiping the seat, covering hands to search for the flush, and cleaning hands.
  • With small hand sanitizer bottles, you don’t need to locate the sink, soap, towel, or trash can.
  • Stop and listen when entering a bathroom. This can help with the location of toilets by the flushing, of sinks by the sound of running water, of dryers by their sound, or paper towels by the sound of the dispenser.
  • Learning your way around a new bathroom can take time. So, a final hint—don’t wait until the last minute to make a pit stop.

To give an example of Millie’s sense of humor, I must relate a funny story. We had stopped at a busy rest area on the interstate to go to the bathroom and get a snack. On the way back to the car, mother was walking with her white cane and in a loud voice said, “Is it my turn to drive?” At first, those around us were stunned. Then they heard her laughter and realized she was joking.



Be sure and pass on this hint to others – if you find yourself all alone in a strange bathroom and can’t figure out where something is or how to use it, this is a perfect time for a ”Be My Eyes” call. The volunteer who answers can help.

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