Advocating for Children with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Many children are afflicted with gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's and ulcerative colitis are both inflammatory bowel diseases that infect the digestive tract. Crohn's disease irritates the gastrointestinal tract more deeply that colitis, and it causes inflammation anywhere from the anus to the colon. Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease restricted to the colon.
Many children and adults with inflammatory bowel disease often experience an urgent need to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, having bathroom access depends on the situation and location. In addition to tolerating the physical discomfort of these conditions, children must learn how to advocate for themselves in public places, namely stores and schools.
Ally's Law: The Restroom Access Act
You and your child are not alone in coping with gastrointestinal diseases. Other families and lawmakers have taken strides in gaining access to public restrooms in medical emergencies. Ally Bain, an Illinois adolescent living with Crohn's disease, suddenly had to use the bathroom at a retail store. Ally was denied access to an employee-only bathroom, even after she explained her medical condition to the store manager and presented a medical card. Experiencing abdominal pain and an accident in the store, Ally and her mother fought to make sure no one else would have to experience this humiliation again.
With the help of family, friends, and Illinois State Representative Kathleen Ryg, Ally pushed to have a law passed requiring retail establishments to provide bathroom access to those afflicted with gastrointestinal diseases and other bowel conditions. Kentucky, Minnesota, Washington and Texas followed in passing similar laws. Connecticut, Maryland, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Massachusetts still have bills pending. Ally and other lawmakers are on a mission to pass this law across the country.
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