Never Judge A Book By Its Cover:

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

Should People With Stomas Use Disabled Toilets?

After using the disabled toilet in Tesco today, I was met with a nasty comment when I walked, seemingly completely healthy, out of the toilet.  Really? I mean, seriously? There is a popular well known saying that covers this: NEVER judge a book by its cover.

What is the definition of disability?

I guess the first question this made me ask is: “What is the definition of a disability?”

noun: disability; 1. A physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities.

Clearly, the definition of having a disability or being disabled does not exclusively mean that the ways you are ‘limited’ must be outwardly visible i.e. you must be in a wheelchair.

Yet there is a definite stereotype of disability, which has probably been enforced by the universal sign for 'disabled' parking or toilets - a wheelchair. This stereotype leads to the nasty reactions when people see you using the disabled toilets yet you don't have any outward, physical disabilities.

I will be the first to admit that, before my stoma operation, I was amongst the uneducated masses regarding many topics, including those concerning disabilities. I found myself looking at someone parked in a disabled bay and judging them for having a nice car or because they could seemingly walk comfortably out of the car. The one thing having a stoma has taught me is that you really must never judge someone by appearance alone; it rarely gives you the full picture of who they are and what challenges they may be facing.

Is having a stoma a disability?

Officially no, having a stoma is not a disability. But based on the definition above of a disability, I think that definition certainly could stretch to allow ostomists to use a disabled toilet?

As an ostomist, gents toilet cubicles are often cramped. There is not a lot of room to empty or deal with your stoma bag or appliance. Being a parent, this is doubly difficult when I am with my son. It is hard enough both having to squeeze into one cubicle when either of us needs the toilet; when I need to deal with my stoma bag, having Jack in such close proximity is really not ideal.

Disabled toilets give me much more space to deal with my stoma bag whilst also allowing Jack to be with me without standing outside or cramped in a cubicle. Therefore, should I be ashamed that I have used a disabled toilet? I definitely don’t feel that I should be met with nasty looks and comments. 

It brings me full circle as to why I started blogging: to raise awareness and try to educate people. My hope is that by raising more awareness for ostomists, more people will learn to never judge a book by its cover.

by Scott Smith

Scott Smith

About the author

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and bowel cancer. I had to have a major operation leaving me with an ileostomy. In a few short months I was discharged from hospital - back into my 'normal' life - changed forever.

Recent Comments

  • Steve Till

    I agree with everything you have said

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