Bathroom Bills Affect Disabled People

CW: Transphobia

Just weeks after the state passed a law that could prohibit people from using restrooms and other facilities that don’t align with their sex assigned at birth, a Kansas woman claimed she was asked to leave the restroom at a library in the state’s largest city while accompanying her adult son who is autistic.

Karen Wild visits the Wichita Public Library’s central branch every week and has done so for years as a way to catch up with her mother, who lives 45 minutes away and helps care for her son, Ellis Dunville, who is on the autism spectrum, has a seizure disorder, and is nonverbal. She says that she had never had anyone object to her assisting her son in the restroom throughout that time.

However, Wild claims that immediately after entering the restroom with her son, a male security guard approached her and informed her that Dunville couldn’t be there. He moved away, she said, when it became evident that another customer was using the restroom, but that customer objected to her son’s presence as well.

A few minutes later, a female employee indicated the library had policies. She also asked if the family may use the building’s gender-neutral restroom. Wild said she was not aware of the gender-neutral restroom.

The library staff made no explicit mention of Senate Bill 180. The law was passed earlier this year. However, Wild said she remembered it during the exchange. Therefore she believes it contributed to the event.

Republican legislators in Kansas adopted one of the most comprehensive and restrictive transgender bathroom measures in U.S. history, overriding Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of the proposal.

Last month, the Kansas House voted 84-40 to overturn Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill 180, which under state law defines sex as an “individual’s biological sex, either male or female, at birth.” The Senate followed suit, voting 28-12.

The law, which goes into effect on July 1, also defines women as people “whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova” and men as people “whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.”

For disabled people and their caregivers, these bathroom bills can make caregiving more difficult. Sending her autistic son into a public men’s restroom alone is not an option, according to Sharisse Tracey, a mother of four from West Point, New York.

Due to my Cerebral Palsy, I require help when using the restroom. Growing up, it was not an issue because I always had help from my moms or PCAs. These days, however, it could become problematic.

My best friend, who is also my PCA, helps me with all activities of daily living, including toileting and bathing. He also happens to be male. Typically, I use family bathrooms or the men’s bathrooms when in public. It is easier for him to help me in the men’s rather than the women’s room.

Sometimes in public, I practice “pee math,” a term I learned from Kathleen Downes. I sometimes go a long time without drinking fluids. When you have a physical disability, you learn to make your needs less important than they are for the sake of caregivers and other people around you.

For disabled people, everyday tasks such as using the bathroom or bathing are seldom easy. For many people who have physical disabilities, we are all too familiar with the need to limit our fluid intake. Growing up, I became skilled at remembering just how many ounces of fluid were in the drinks I brought to school every day. In high school, there were days when I didn’t drink at all.

Making things more complicated is that most public bathrooms only have one accessible restroom stall. A standard bathroom stall barely accommodates my caregiver, who needs to assist me with toileting. They don’t accommodate mobility equipment either.

Disabled people deserve accessible bathrooms. People should not be forced to change on the bathroom floor or limit their fluid intake. Disabled people can manage their hygiene with dignity and privacy in an accessible bathroom. Everyone has the right to live with dignity.


Bahl, Andrew. “Kansas Woman and Son with Disabilities Told to Leave Restroom, as Controversial Law Looms.” The Topeka Capital-Journal, 23 May 2023,

Dell’Antonia, KJ. “The Other Bathroom Wars.” The New York Times, 25 May 2016,

Downes, Kathleen A. Swimming Against The Stream: On Being Disabled in Higher Education, The Squeaky Wheelchair , 14 Oct. 2016, 

Migdon, Brooke. “Kansas Enacts Sweeping Transgender ‘Bathroom Bill.’” The Hill, 29 Apr. 2023,

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