August 6, 2012

Bathroom access bill hailed as victory

BOSTON – People with medical conditions who need to use the bathroom immediately will soon be allowed to use employee-only restroom facilities in Massachusetts if no public bathroom is available.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s signature on Wednesday made Massachusetts the 13th state to pass a so-called restroom access bill. According to the bill’s supporters, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis make bathroom access a more immediate concern, and only patients with a doctor’s note would be allowed access to employee-only facilities under the new law.

Only retail businesses with three or more employees on duty will be subject to the law, which will indemnify them from lawsuits in cases where a person is injured while using their facilities.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton) and was supported by Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who himself suffers from Crohn’s disease, according to a press release from the law’s supporters at Team Intestinal Fortitude.

About 1.4 million people nationally, including 30,000 in Massachusetts, suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, which estimates that 10 percent of IBD sufferers are under the age of 18.

Stephen Marcus of Easton, New England chapter president of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, said a similar law was put on the books in Washington after Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, who has Crohn’s disease, advocated for it.

“We think for human decency and dignity that the House, Senate and the governor did the right thing by signing it into law,” Marcus told the News Service yesterday, saying his group got more active in pressing for a Massachusetts law after reading about retailers who opposed it.

In a statement, Kafka said, “This bill will provide peace of mind to people suffering from IBD, who will be able to shop without fear of a publicly embarrassing situation.”

Kafka pushed the bill for six years after filing it at the request of Canton attorney Jonathan Rutley, whose daughter Catie was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was 9 years old.




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