My Success with Grab Bar Acrobatics

My Success with Grab Bar Acrobatics

Whenever I’m out and about running errands, I’m aware of the possibility I’ll need to make a quick stop at, ahem, the public restroom. But though I have ALS and rely on a mobility scooter, it has never been a problem. That’s because I have a mental list of handicapped-accessible public restrooms located along our route.

My first choice is to use the public restrooms of big-box stores. They typically have at least one extra-wide stall with lots of turnaround room, grab bars, and additional rolls of toilet paper. I can count on a uniformity from store to store.

But occasionally there’s a hiccup.

A case of bad schematics

One of those hiccups happened last week when my husband and I were shopping across town at a home improvement store and nature called. It was my first time in this store, and as we followed the signs pointing us to our goal, I wondered what kind of new appliances I’d find.

Once there, my husband held the door open and I scootered in, making a beeline for the last stall. I swung open the wide door and went in.

That’s when I noticed something didn’t seem quite right.

There was a toilet in front of me, and the toilet paper was on the left wall. But instead of the usual grab bar on the right wall, there was nothing. The grab bar was mounted horizontally on the back wall, right above the toilet!

Talk about misreading the blueprints!

Knowing I’d come this far and had to make the situation work, I maneuvered my scooter parallel to the toilet, grabbed that darn bar, used my scooter handles for leverage and — let’s just say this was the first time I’ve ever sat sideways on a toilet!

Once finished, I managed to reverse all the acrobatics while congratulating myself for all of those days spent practicing chair squats.

On the drive home, I shared the story. “No wonder you took so long,” my husband chuckled.

There have been a few other times when I’ve scootered into what seemed like a normal handicapped-accessible stall and ended up doing my best Spider-Man moves just to get in and out. Each time I kept my humor and tried to meet the challenge.

A portable solution

A few years ago, following a disappointing stay in a motel room that had been advertised as being handicapped-accessible, we bought a portable grab bar. It’s a lightweight, yet strong plastic pipe with suction cups that adhere to any flat surface.

The portable grab bar worked great on our next trip, and we even use it at home in the guest bathroom.

BYOB (bring your own bar)

For anyone who relies on a grab bar or has experienced the frustration of having to use a badly placed one, I recommend bringing your own. They come in all sizes and are available online or from your local hardware store.

I have my eye on one with a single handle. Maybe I’ll carry it in a little bag attached to my scooter so it’s ready to use at any time.

I’ll bet many readers have their own humorous stories to share. I invite you to do so in the comments below.

Together we can laugh at life’s challenges. Together we can live well while living with ALS.


Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

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  1. John Russell says:

    First of all, Dagmar, I’m spraying coffee from my nostrils and desperately thinking “soggy sheep”.

    This most definitely is an issue for many of us. I love your solution. Recently, thanks to one of my PT’S I discovered the wide base quad cane. This is not nearly as secure as your grab bar but I can stand & maneuver my feet while the cane is planted on it’s 4 feet. I plan to have it with me one way or another while traveling in a wheelchair.

  2. Ellyn Maloney says:

    I have been waiting for an opportunity to share this story. My husband (who succuumbed to the beast of ALS in 2017) and I were at an ALS Association conference in Washington, D.C. We were unable to stay at the host hotel and therefore, when nature called could not return to our room which was a few blocks away. At that time, there was no “family’ bathroom in this particular hotel or at least not close enough for us to access. He was confined to an electric wheelchair and unable to walk. So, I did what any quick thinking wife and mother would do- I put a sign on the door that said “Closed for Cleaning” and accompanied my husband into the bathroom. Can’t remember if we chose the men or women one but we did what needed to be done and laughed about it later. Not until you are “handicapped” do you pay attention to how hard it is to do the simpliest things and yes, the term handicapped does not always mean the same thing in terms of accommodations-sometimes we had to do without a shower in the morning when traveling because “accessible” has different definitions. So lucky that my husband lost a lot of physical things due to ALS but never his sense of humor.

    • Shelia Riddick says:

      I was diagnosed on December 17, 2019. This is all new to my husband and me. It is affecting my legs. I have to have a walker all the time now and I have some very funny stories about bathrooms. I’ll share those later. But, in response to your story every time I use your restroom I go to the ladies restroom into the handicap area with my husband. Every woman has given us support about my husband being in the women’s restroom. They actually have complimented him about being willing to help me and how kind it is to see two people still in love.

  3. Dorothy says:

    I just took my first scary fall, trying to transfer from power chair to toilet. The legs just won’t help at all anymore. I love the solution the last poster left, ingenious! But if there are other women coming and going in a large restroom with a wheelchair stall, what on earth do you do? I simply can’t do it alone anymore, but can’t see my husband walking into a busy ladies room.

    • Cindy says:

      Dorothy when we travel we first look for a family restroom. I too am unable to use the bathroom unassisted. But if there is none we ask a person in charge and they always make a restroom available. We have used handicapped stalls in both men and ladies rooms. People are very understanding.
      For everyone’s information the best airport Handicapped restrooms are in Houston. Ample room, bars on 3 sides which are actually within reach and no interference from toilet tissue holders.

    • Anne says:

      Dorothy, when I got to the point you are now, I did take my husband. He would get a manager who would clear out the bathroom for us or stay in the bathroom while we were in the handicap stall. People are quite responsive and happy to help.

    • Cari says:

      I have so many bathroom stories, I literally might write a book one day. Some were horrific when they happened, but later they provide a good laugh and survival story. My husband has been frequenting the ladies room for about 21 years. At first it stressed him out and he sweat bullets. Now he comes right in and makes a bee line for the handicap stall after I make sure it’s available. If women give him a weird look, he just says, “No, you’re in the right place. I’m just helping my wife!” Most women are very nice about it.

  4. Peggy says:

    Hi Dagmar,
    I love reading your posts!! I do not have ALS but I follow you and whats happening with you in Tucson. I was with you at CFHWB, St Luke’s Hospital, and think about you lots!!!! At that time you were an inspiration (continue to be) and you have never stopped spreading your cheer, joy, love, and enthusiasm!!

  5. Michael Armstrong says:

    I’ve seen great accessible bathrooms and showers in motels, and terrible, downright dangerous ones in medical facilities. Look before leaping.
    This question doesn’t belong here, probably, but maybe you can tell me: I was logged into my ALSnewstoday account, and got here starting at the forums, so I’m wondering where my login went to, and why I have to enter all my data again?

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