Tackle misuse of disability toilets at its root

I disagree with Dr Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills' reasons for giving people with disabilities the exclusive use of disability toilets ("Disability toilets more about lowering barriers"; Thursday).

She said that unlike priority seats on MRT trains, users cannot see and give up the cubicle when someone who needs it more shows up.

Passengers sitting on priority seats on MRT trains do not always give up their seats immediately.

INSTALL 'PREMIUM' CUBICLES, AND CHARGE FOR USE

I suggest that a special 'premium' cubicle be installed for people who really need to use the toilet urgently and for those who prefer a more clean, spacious and private toilet - for a fee, of course.

One way to prevent people from misusing disability toilets is to install a camera, with a sign alerting people that the place is being monitored.

MR CHEW CHEE WENG

Passengers usually focus their attention on their phones and are often unaware of what is happening around them. It often takes a few minutes before they look up and notice the needy before seats are given up.

Likewise, under normal circumstances, a toilet cubicle is occupied for only a few minutes as well, regardless of whether the user can see if someone who needs it more shows up or not.

This time spent is a lot shorter than when an unauthorised car occupies the parking space reserved for vehicles driven by wheelchair users.

What happens when someone using the toilet is also a person with disabilities? Wouldn't the wheelchair user waiting outside the toilet have to wait as well?

If queueing and a few minutes of wait are considered barriers, then able-bodied people face the same barriers, too.

If the issue is the hogging of disability toilets, then our focus should be to tackle the root of this problem, rather than to impose a blanket ban on the use of disability toilets, even in times of urgency and emergency.

To curb misuse of such toilets by smokers, the authorities could be more active in taking enforcement action.

I am not saying we allow everyone free use of disability toilets, especially if they simply want more space or privacy.

But in times of urgency, and when there is no wheelchair user who needs the toilet, we should allow some leeway for disability toilets to be used by others. And if a wheelchair user shows up, he should get priority.

Wong Boon Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Tackle misuse of disability toilets at its root'. Print Edition | Subscribe