How Ally's Law Helps People Living With IBD Gain Restroom Access

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Crohn’s disease can leave you with a great deal of anxiety about public outings — what if you have a bathroom emergency and there are no public restrooms nearby? This is where Ally’s Law comes in.

Ally’s Law, otherwise known as the Restroom Access Law, was jumpstarted by Ally Bain, who was only 14 years old at the time. Struggling with Crohn’s disease since age 11, Ally knew far too well the issues there could be with access to bathrooms — especially in stores that did not have public restrooms available.

How did Ally’s Law begin?

Ally was shopping with her parents in an Old Navy store when her Crohn’s symptoms kicked in.  Unfortunately, the store policy would not allow for her to use the employee restroom. This led the child to soil herself. The experience led her to help start a campaign to keep this from happening to anyone else.

What states follow Ally’s Law?

The first state to enact the Restroom Access Law was Illinois in 2005. Multiple states followed, including: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Washington.

What if I live in a state without Ally’s Law?

If you live in a state that does not have Ally’s Law or the Restroom Access Law, there are still things you can do to help should you have an emergency like Ally did that day in Old Navy. The first step would be to obtain a Medical Alert Bathroom Pass, which is free through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, or you can get a medical alert bracelet. You can also get involved by talking with local representatives in your area so your state can be pressured to pass a similar law.

What if store owners don’t follow the law?

Certain states allow exceptions to the law due to the size of the store. Some will impose fines for stores that do not follow the law. Check out the rules for your particular state so you can be well informed before an issue occurs. Should a store break the law, be sure to report it! Doing so may help the next person who desperately needs restroom access. Don’t forget the power of social media should you run into a less-than-helpful store owner.

Living with IBD can be rough at times, but no one should be afraid to go out in public. The more we educate and empower patients to speak up for their needs, the better the world will be for the entire IBD community.

See more helpful articles:

10 Tips for Traveling With Crohn's Disease

When Disaster Strikes: What to Pack in Your IBD 'Go Bag'

3 Tips for Dining Out With Crohn’s Disease