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This is related to How would a race of humanoids with tails design [vehicle] seats?; same universe, same humanoids.

I have a story involving a bunch of humanoids with tails (see prior question for specifics), with one scene where the POV character sees an "accessible" bathroom for the first time and is puzzled by the funny toilet. What does it look like?


For context, we first need to ask, what do ordinary toilets look like? It seems obvious to me that they ought to look like, well, these. Aside from the arguments that humans ought to be using these (modern westerners, specifically, as these are what historic people used, and many easterners still use), it seems that they wouldn't have the problems a modern western style toilet would have with tails.

The problem (and the reason why my POV character is surprised) with these is that they obviously won't work for some disabled people (those who are wheelchair-bound, especially, but even someone on crutches would have trouble), so there must be something different for such people. What is it?

Our goal is to design a toilet such that:

  • It can be used by someone who has no use of their legs, preferably without needing complicated hoists.
  • The user's tail (which needs to be able to hang limp; the user may not be able to move it either) is not in the way, or crushed, or...
  • The user's waste doesn't get splashed all over, and particularly doesn't wind up on his/her tail.
  • The user does not have to make contact with a surface which also makes contact with users' wastes.

So far the best I've come up with is something like a huge pit with enough of a drop that the back of the seat can be open (to accommodate the tail) without this introducing a splash danger. However, while this might work for "pit toilets", the space requirements make it decidedly sub-optimal for e.g. a shopping center. Something that can fit on a second floor without disrupting the space below is strongly preferred.


Edit: I'd sort of prefer a non-magical solution, but on further consideration, I do have "kinetic" magic and if there is a brilliant magic-based solution, it would be bad world-building to ignore it. See How can I meaningfully define the energy cost of magical levitation? for an outline of the mechanics. Again, I think requiring magic to completely support the user's weight is sub-optimal, but magic could easily be used e.g. to hold the tail out of the way. (The tail still needs somewhere to go, however.)

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you have to go back one step. What does a chair or wheelchair that is tail friendly look like? Cos once that issue is solved you should be able to simply wheel the chair over the eastern style toilet like a "commode". If your world is inhabited by humanoids with tails, all buildings will be designed with this need for extra space in mind. Leaving enough space for a tail while using any toilet will be the standard norm (be it an able -bodied or disabled-bodied tail) $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Dec 4 '19 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps, my previous question addressed chair design. Your solution would require that all wheelchairs have a commode-like hole in them, which I am not assuming to be the case. It's... doable, but I don't consider it optimal for various reasons. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Dec 4 '19 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah i admit, IRL wheelchairs are not the same as commodes (with a hole in the seat). Hoever your accepted answer for car seats design implies you are happy designing chairs with holes in them..."having a gap in the center of the seat, that runs all the way forward and open in the back would be best". So it could be that in your world mosts seats have these holes as standard? $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Dec 4 '19 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ ...but note the comment: "I'm going to post another self-answer with my final solution, which combines a number of factors, but I'm accepting this one because it provided the most novel input." For the time being, I'm assuming wheelchairs look more like this. One reason a commode-like hole is undesirable is that it needs to be on the wider side, which would compromise support. That's fine for something you sit on for a few minutes; no so good for something you sit on for hours. (BTW, sitting on toilet seats for hours is really bad! There are studies...) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Dec 4 '19 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ free standing backless western toilets do exist, what is wrong with those.Just seeing a toilet you actually sit on would be weird for your character. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 5 '19 at 4:52
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Honestly, having the squat toilet you described with moving bars on the side might be the way to go if your character is paralyzed only from the waist down. I hope I'm not describing this badly, but think about it like an adjustable bar - it is at first positioned at approximately a wheelchair user's height, and allows the user to relocate their weight onto their arms as their arms are holding this bar. But as the user stands and then 'squats' slowly, they relocate their body weight onto the bar, pushing the bar lower till the user is at a proper height, similar to squatting. This would arguably use less upper-body strength than bars on the sides on public disabled restrooms require. This would solve/minimize the usability + splash-back problem that the user could have.

Another thing to note as you correctly pointed out is the tail. For this the simplest 'fix' is to have a small tail-holder to make sure the tail is out of the way. In your previous post you already mentioned how long these tails are so that should give you information about where they should be placed and how high this holder should be. I would consider also having 'straps' to hold the tail in place, but this could be a sanitary issue and vector for disease.

Below are three diagrams - the overall look of this toilet from above, the diagram of how the bars sort of work, and of the tail holder. Hope this helps!

Eastern toilet for tailed beings Different angle Tail holder

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    $\begingroup$ I feel the one thing you don't want is a ticking clock for disabled people to get in pooping position, you also have the problem of getting out of it, dropping bars is just not a good idea. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 6 '19 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I was thinking about a button or something that would help the user choose when the bar would push them back up, but I didn't know how to show that in my diagrams. I like the OP's answer (below) better. $\endgroup$ – cyber101 Dec 11 '19 at 17:33
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First off, thank you cyber101 for a really neat and inspiring answer.

Here's what I think I'm going to use, inspired by this video and cyber101 reminding me to think about the transfer bars. This is going to be on the overly-detailed side.

There are actually several relevant questions here:

Q. How do we deal with the user's clothes?

I realized after asking the question that this is also a problem. For my needs, it probably won't matter, but it's important context that should be considered.

For humans, the consensus on the web seems to be "take them off first". For our people with tails, doing this while seated has the potential to be extremely awkward. For "healthy" people, I'm assuming that dressing is done standing up, such that dealing with the tail is rather like dealing with a third leg... not too bad. For someone sitting, this would only work if the tail is pulled between the legs, or if the clothes do not permanently wrap "over" the tail. We'll assume that our handicapped individuals either do sit on their tails (plausible) or else wear clothes that fasten above the tail, such that they can be removed without having to thread the tail through any holes. We'll also assume that they take their clothes (below the waist, anyway) completely off before getting on the toilet so that the legs are unrestricted. (This might imply that accessible restrooms will tend to have somewhere to set clothing aside.)

Q. how does the user get on the toilet?

Here is where the aforementioned video really inspired me. Combining that idea with cyber101's reminder to stick close to the design of regular toilets is how I arrived at the final design.

Okay, so the user's pants and underwear are off. The user moves his/her wheelchair so that it is directly behind the toilet and locks the wheels. The user scooches forward and spreads their legs to help guide his/her knees around the "seat". Then, using a combination of the wheelchair and the grab bars, the user slides himself/herself forward onto the toilet. The rails (lower parts of the grab bars) help guide the user's legs onto the lower supports. In addition to the side grab bars, a front grab bar is available to assist in this process.

The user may lean forward to assist in positioning of the colon for improved evacuation.

Q. So... what does this thing actually look like?

From the top, it looks a lot like a regular toilet. There is a similar splash guard, a gourd-shaped opening (wider at the back to maximize access to the user's bum, narrower in the middle for maximum leg support) and what looks a bit like feet supports. However, the support is actually based on a kneeling chair. The whole thing rises to chair height with a water basin. The back, however, has a dip for improved access.

Here is a picture with side, top and back views: enter image description here

The front grab bar is shown only in the top view. The user's head/arms/feet are not shown. The tail is probably too short also, but only the base of the tail really matters, and tail lengths vary. Darker colors generally indicate greater distance from the camera plane. This isn't perfect, but should be good enough to get the idea across.

Q. How does the user clean themselves?

Here is where we see some of the why of this design. The open back is inspired by human toilets and is specifically designed to provide an opening so that the user can reach behind and wipe his/her bottom. Additionally, because the user's legs are spread and not pressed against the front splash guard, there should also be room for the user to wipe his/her crotch.

Q. What about the tail?

As shown, the tail should rest against the outside of the toilet and be more or less out of the way. However, my thinking is that either the user's tail will be partly supported by the wheelchair (which, recall, is directly behind the toilet), or else the user may elect to place his/her tail over the top of a leg. The latter is probably "optimal", and users can use their non-dominant hand to hold their tails.

Q. Can this be refined?

Probably. I feel like there needs to be some tweaking to help users get their legs up and onto the "seat", but I can hand-wave that in narrative. This is close enough for my needs.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a great answer Matthew! Thanks for the shoutout! I have a quick question though (this is probably more for the OP than you actually) but will this bathroom be used as a public premises? Because this design seems practical and relatively easy to construct using modern manufacturing technology but could be a sanitation hazard. From the way you describe it the user will be sitting on this toilet. Would this be a concern? $\endgroup$ – cyber101 Dec 6 '19 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ I realize that humans have toilets that are worse than what you described lol so this probably isn't the best question to ask. $\endgroup$ – cyber101 Dec 6 '19 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ That position is horrible for defication however, honestly you want the legs lifted as high as possible, that position makes opening the sphincter harder. The whole reason japanese toilets are better is the squatting position reduces how much force is needed to push through the schinter. bmartin.cc/pubs/96tldp.html $\endgroup$ – John Dec 6 '19 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ (@cyber101, you do realize I am the OP? 😉) Yes, the idea is this is public, but why would it be worse than toilet seats in our world? Anyway, I'm also thinking that it would be typical for users to carry sanitizing wipes which they would use on the toilet before using it. (TBH, thinking about the sanitation implications of the video I linked makes me cringe...) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Dec 6 '19 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @John, yes, if the user sat upright. Note that I stated the user is expected to lean forward. At least one source suggests that provides similar benefit. (Since I can also hand-wave a bit "because magic", I think I'm okay in this respect...) Leaning forward also helps get the tail out of the way. Otherwise, I don't see how it's possible to avoid needing back support; remember, this has to work for paraplegics. If you have a better idea, more answers are welcome! $\endgroup$ – Matthew Dec 6 '19 at 16:30

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