The Disabling Museum, Part 3: Restrooms

Slide 33

Museum restrooms are great places to get a sense of how well not just so-called disabled visitors are accommodated, but anyone who might need space or privacy in a restroom. This might include larger visitors, people with ostomies, visitors with small children, etc. 


Slide 34

Here’s an “accessible” restroom that can be cruel to the user. Notice that immediately after you enter, you have to make an immediate sharp right turn and open another door — outward — with barely enough room to maneuver. And if someone comes out the door you’re trying to enter … trouble, potentially.  This could also be awkward for someone with a bag, or an overweight/obese visitor, or someone who maneuvers their wheelchair with difficulty.


Slide 35

Here’s another so-called disabled accessible restroom in another museum. It features a door that opens outward in a narrow corridor. This photo is foreshortened and does not convey just how narrow. On top of that, this restroom is located in a dark, creepy space in an out-of-the-way location. And this is in a major museum that has been renovated in the last couple of years. 


met restroomBy contrast, here’s a restroom in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. A wide door and then a straight shot, with plenty of maneuvering room. And the stalls are adequate for most visitors’ needs. The downside is that because of the straight access, you can see right into it when the door is open — but that could be taken care of with a privacy wall or privacy screen in front of the door. 


The next time you visit a museum, notice the number and location of the restrooms. Are there enough? And are they conveniently located? This will tell you a lot about how thoughtful the museum is of visitors’ basic physical comfort.


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