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by Abigail Van Buren

Facilities for the Disabled Serve a Variety of Needs

DEAR ABBY: You did a disservice to the truly disabled on May 1 when you advised "Jennifer in Maine" it was OK to use the handicapped restroom stall because her large size made it uncomfortable using a regular one.

I am married to a disabled person. He cannot get off a toilet without the grab bars available in a designated stall. What some individuals may not know is that many disabled people also suffer from bladder and bowel control issues and are desperate to use the facilities when they enter a restroom. A minute or two delay for them can spell disaster.

Finding it "difficult" to squeeze into a tiny stall is not the same as finding it impossible. The same goes for abusers of handicapped parking tags. The only persons entitled to these accommodations are the disabled -- not the lazy, not the obese, or even necessarily the elderly. We who are blessed with the gift of mobility should make sure that accommodations are always available for those who are not. -- VOICE OF REASON IN OHIO

DEAR VOICE: Thank you for correcting me. I told "Jennifer" I saw nothing wrong with using the larger stall as long as she deferred to a disabled woman needing it at the same time -- and not everyone agreed with my reply. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Not all reasons for needing the special stall are evident. Have you ever tried to fit two adults into a regular stall when one of them is disabled and needs assistance? This happens when someone else uses the bigger stall even though there were other ones available. It infuriates me knowing my parents suffer because people ignore disability-specific setups. -- DAUGHTER OF DISABLED

DEAR ABBY: Handicapped parking spaces are legally reserved for people who have a disability. Handicapped restroom stalls are built to accommodate the disabled -- not reserved for them. -- BARBARA IN SAN LUIS OBISPO

DEAR ABBY: I believe the larger stalls are there for anyone who needs them. If a woman has to change clothes, that stall is helpful, but she should be quick so as not to leave a disabled person waiting.

Women with small children or a baby in a stroller should use this stall and keep the kids in there with her. I was appalled when I saw a woman leave her baby in a stroller outside a small stall while she used it. -- HEDDY, OUT WEST

DEAR ABBY: I use the bathroom stalls for people with disabilities and sometimes get dirty looks. I have a back injury and because the seats are much higher in a disabled stall, it allows me to conduct my business without enduring extreme pain. Please remind your readers that disabilities have many faces. -- LADY WHO KNOWS IN EL CENTRO, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: I also exclusively use the larger stall. I am a perfectly healthy 36-year-old woman with a thin build and no physical limitations. What I do have is moderate obsessive-compulsive disorder. The thought of using the smaller stall makes my heart race and my skin crawl.

I touch most of the outside world with a tissue or handkerchief. In a restroom I need enough space to be sure I will not touch the toilet, door, walls, trash can or paper dispenser. I realize my disorder is quirky, but I adapt. And obviously, I would yield to any person in need. -- DENTON, TEXAS, READER

DEAR ABBY: You may have overlooked the real concern of "Jennifer's" mother about her obese daughter's use of the handicapped stall. Jennifer needs to shape up before she is the one in the wheelchair. -- VALERIE IN FLORIDA

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