3 Cups of Tea and an Accessible Bathroom

A women using a power-wheelchair wheels in front of historic buildings in spain.
There is a huge water-filled elephant in the room that travel guides don’t speak much about. Megan Smith broaches the subject of toilets abroad.

I’ve gone in a shed, I’ve gone in the forest and I’ve gone in the middle of the desert. I’ve gone on top of a mountain, and yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have gone behind a bus.

As a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, going to the bathroom is one topic that is foremost on my mind when I’m traveling. If I learn nothing else in the native language of where I travel, I always learn:”Where’s the bathroom?” “Ayna Al Hammam?” “¿Dónde está el baño?” “Baatroom snaan kaksha kahaan cha?” “Ble mae`r ty bach?”, “où sont les toilettes?”, “Wo ist die Toilette, bitte?” When all else fails, I am the master of universal bathroom signs and the international potty dance.

When I was first going abroad, I was often afraid that I wouldn’t be able to access bathrooms or make it in time.

It was far scarier than rolling through Lima’s La Victoria district during a football game at midnight, which I don’t recommend. For some travelers with disabilities, toilet matters are a constant preoccupation. I’ve often felt that I could not admit such issues in public or ask for advice or assistance. I was embarrassed when after three cups of tea, I rolled to the bathroom and found that I couldn’t get in. I either had to ask for assistance or pray I could MacGyver a way inside in time.

This is a huge water-filled elephant in the room that guidebooks and travelogues don’t speak much about, and people with disabilities often don’t want to broadcast their bathroom needs to the world.

However, in my extensive travels, I have learned that whether you are a disabled traveler who has a neurogenic bladder or a non-disabled traveler who ate that delicious smelling street food in Mumbai, we all face bathroom issues on the road.

After many years, I am finally moving away from being embarrassed about going to the bathroom. I ask fellow travelers for assistance. I wear long skirts for modesty when I have someone hold me up as I squat in the desert. I use amazing travel gel urinals that allow me an accessible bathroom virtually everywhere I go. Every disability is different so we all have to figure out what works, whether we use medication, catheters, or scheduling. However, in the end, we all have to use the toilet.

Believe me, some toilet adventures are quite pleasant. In Japan, my toilets heated up, sang me pop songs, dried me and said goodbye. My only complaint was that my toilet wouldn’t sing me the Beatles.

Megan's Travel kit:

  • “On the go” travel urinals
  • Baby wipes
  • Extra set of clothes


Megan Smith