Mental Health and Public Accommodation

By Tim Fromla

The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA is a good friend for people who need accommodation in everyday life. A person in a wheelchair would need doors that open easily or a visually impaired person may need a dog to guide them. These accommodations are requirements by the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to make a disabled person part of everyday life. What about the person who is not blind or in a wheelchair but needs accommodations? They too are afforded the same rights. Sometimes, they don’t get it though.

I was at the gym, and I experienced this. Nine months after New Years, I decided to join and gym. I needed to do so to lose weight and for my mental health. The workout and sore muscles are making my mental health issue vanish. Combining my medication, therapy, and sweat is giving me the happiness I haven’t felt in a long time. I enjoy the feeling and would recommend people to try and workout. I guess for me; exercise allays my anxiety. Today though, I felt my anxiety perk up.

After my workout, I needed to use the restroom. The restroom I use is gender neutral, and it’s one person per use. This form of privacy is what I wish. As I approached the front desk, I asked the person if I could use the restroom. The person apologized and said it was for employees and disabled people. I asked what about people who are mentally disabled or have mental health issues? He said no and apologized.

Instead of getting mad, I texted my trainer, and he said that he would speak to his manager. After looking up the definition, the gender-neutral bathroom in a private gym does not have to accommodate the public, unlike like a theater, mall, doctors’ office, but since I am a member, and the restroom is for transgender folks and physically disabled members, mental health folks need accommodation too. So what is my disability? Anxiety. I panic in public restrooms. If there is accommodation, I would use it, unless there isn’t, so I would wait until I got home.

The issue is, many can’t tell I am disabled and I am required by law to say I have mental health issues. Without mentioning this, they need not accommodate me. I spoke to the person, but that person, unbeknownst to him did not realize that mental health issue is part of the ADA.

When I get back to the gym on Monday, I’m going to find out if I could use the private restroom. If I could, then there would be no issue. The manager knows about my mental health. If they refuse my request, I would have no choice but to file a complaint. The purpose is not to sue for money but to educate the corporation about rights as a disabled person.