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.
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.
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“What’s Crohn’s Disease Got to Do With It?”