DEAR ABBY: I rarely disagree with you, but after seeing the letter about a woman in a wheelchair cutting into line and "demanding access" to a handicapped restroom stall, I had to write.
Because of post-polio syndrome, I must use a wheelchair outside my home if walking even a moderate distance. To my knowledge, wheelchair users have the same bladder control as anyone else and require no special treatment. Unfortunately, some wheelchair users abuse their obvious physical problems and, at times, become tyrants. However, most of us want to be treated exactly like everyone else unless there's some kind of barrier such as a door that's difficult to open. Otherwise, we do not want special treatment. -- ABBY FAN, JAMESTOWN, N.Y.
DEAR FAN: Other readers echoed your sentiments, and some pointed out that there are people with "hidden" disabilities such as irritable bowel syndrome or incontinence. They felt, as you do, that the woman in the wheelchair was out of line (forgive the pun) for being demanding.
I feel, however, that the person standing in line should have offered to let the woman in the wheelchair go in first. And if she couldn't wait, she should have asked the woman for permission to go ahead of her. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: The Americans With Disabilities Act affords persons with disabilities "equal, but not better" access to public services and programs. While it may be "nice" that an able-bodied person allows someone in a wheelchair to have first access to the large stall, legally a person in a wheelchair has to wait just like everyone else. -- AMY IN MADISON, WIS.
DEAR AMY: Let's use logic and consider statistical probability. If the bathroom contained four stalls, and only one was wheelchair-accessible, the odds of the person in the wheelchair getting to go to the bathroom were not "equal." An able-bodied person would have a 100 percent chance of getting a stall, while the disabled person would have only a 25 percent probability (1-in-4). To me, that's not "equal access."
DEAR ABBY: I'm disabled and can't count the times I've entered public restrooms and found the only occupied stall was the one that's handicapped-accessible. Last weekend at the supermarket, the occupant was reading the Sunday paper.
I'd love for anyone who thinks the woman in that letter "bullied" her way into line to spend one week in a wheelchair. They'd quickly discover what a gift their accessibility grants them on a daily basis. Perhaps then they'd understand the frustration of having only one stall to use, and having people who don't need it tell them they need to wait. -- ROSE IN ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, FLA.
DEAR ROSE: We think alike.
DEAR ABBY: Last December, I took my very ill, 80-year-old mother Christmas shopping. She needed to use the restroom, but her wheelchair wouldn't fit through the door. While Mom was struggling to get from her wheelchair into the stall, a woman in her mid-30s charged in and pushed her aside. My mom, who couldn't even stand straight, ended up having an "accident" because of the woman's aggressive rudeness. There's no doubt at all that she saw my mother struggling.
Mom rarely goes anywhere now; she is in hospice. But I'll never forget the incident. There's something seriously wrong with a nation that fails to honor and respect their elderly. Who would do something like that to someone who is old and disabled -- even if they do "gotta go right now"? Thanks for letting me vent! -- VICKI IN ROCKFORD, ILL.