A Legal Victory for Crohn’s Sufferers

by Bill Brenner on August 13, 2012

Though Crohn’s Disease has mostly left me alone in my almost-middle age, there’s one thing it still does to me on a regular basis. It strikes me with an out-of-nowhere urge to use the bathroom.

It has hit me while driving, while sitting in work meetings and while standing in the supermarket cereal aisle.

Mood music:


When the urge hits, the worst thing is being in a store where the restrooms are for employees only. I can understand why some places do this. The general public has a history of misusing public restrooms: scrawling graffiti on stall doors, clogging toilets and leaving ’em that way, and engaging in a multitude of other disgusting behaviors.

But these places ought to make exceptions for those of us who suffer from these surprise attacks. Most do, but I’ve been in places where they stubbornly enforce the employees-only policy. In their minds, store owners have to do what they have to do. Fair enough. But so do Crohn’s and colitis sufferers. And in Massachusetts, their efforts to legally require places to allow them restroom access have paid off.

WBUR, Boston’s NPR affiliate, reports that Gov. Deval Patrick has signed the Restroom Access Bill into law, making the Bay State part of a trend. To date, 12 other states have passed some version of this legislation, Illinois being the first. From the report:

Under the new Mass. law, businesses with at least three employees on duty must allow anyone with Crohn’s, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, a colostomy bag — or with any other medical condition involving urgent toilet needs — to use an employee-only restroom if public facilities aren’t readily accessible. One catch: sufferers must have a valid doctor’s note or approved ID card verifying their disorder. Shopowners can be fined $100 for failure to approve a valid request.

A big advocate for the legislation was Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, who I’ve written about before. He wrote a letter to lawmakers asking them to support the legislation.

I want to thank those who worked so hard to make this happen.

Fortunately, more and more stores have public restrooms. But since we’re always in the store that doesn’t when the sudden urge hits (that’s how it sometimes feels, at least), this will provide some real peace of mind.

Related posts:

A Crohn’s Disease Attack, Put to Music

Crohn’s Disease and Metallica

For a Girl Recently Diagnosed With Crohn’s Disease

The Bad Pill Kept Me from the Good Pill

A Boy’s Life on Prednisone: A Class Photo History

A Link Between Prednisone, Mental Illness

What’s Crohn’s Disease Got to Do With It?

Digestive Tract

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica Pozerski August 13, 2012 at 9:21 am

I am very happy that this law was passed, but I have one small compliant. Now people with Crohn’s need to walk around with a doctors note and inform random store clerks of their disease. It seems a bit intrusive, and embarrassing. It is a huge step in the right direction though.

Bill Brenner August 13, 2012 at 9:23 am

Yes, I agree, Jessica. But I think with time a better solution will present itself. To me, this is as big a deal in terms of awareness as it is anything else.

Jessica Pozerski August 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

You are right. Baby-steps. I tend to be a bit impatient with these things and what them to be the way they should be right away. Awareness is a good thing, and there is a ton of research being done now about Crohn’s. There may even be a better treatment or cure in the next 5-10 years. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

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