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Published October 27, 2012

Under California law, Santa Marino businesses must have at least one large bathroom stall for handicapped patrons.  Unfortunately for many handicapped people, the large stalls – considered the “limousines” of public restrooms – are the first choices of the able-bodied.  The result: handicapped often must wait for a stall.

In a 5-4 vote, the Santa Marino City Council decided that the police force must begin inspecting handicapped stalls and ticket those illegally using handicapped stalls.  SMPD Chief Willie Barker said via email that guidelines are still in the works.  “We will probably instruct officers to ‘knock and ask’ first,” said Barker.  The handicapped person may stick a crutch under the stall as proof or bump its wheelchair against the stall.  Officers may also look under the stall for walking aids.  If the officer believes an individual is not handicapped, he or she may “enter and inspect” the stall. 

Fines shall range from $300.00 for first time offenses to $1,145.00 for subsequent offenses.

The measure has drawn mixed responses.  Advocates for the handicapped have praised it.  Others have said that it is overkill.  “Perhaps the biggest contribution of the handicapped in the last 40 years has been oversized bathroom stalls,” said Arthur C. Kunis, an advocate for the able-bodied. 

Santa Marino College professor of psychology Maynard P. Hughes said that the large stalls give people of lower status a temporary feeling of empowerment.   “We forget that many of us have no perks at the office or where ever,” said Hughes.  “For these people, a 10-minute visit to a handicapped stall makes them feel like a V.I.P.,” he said. 

Ryan Simons, 24, a junior intern (unpaid) at Santa Marino accounting firm Kranzberg Wollecott, P.C., said that no handicapped people use their large stall.  “About the only time I feel important is when I use the big stall,” said Simons.  “Once they take that 10 minutes a day from me I’ll have nothing,” he said.  "I can't eat at the lunch table but I had my daily trip to my private throne."