Massachusetts Enacts Restroom Access Act

UPDATE 5/10/2013: In addition to the links and information listed in the original post for states other than Massachusetts, please see the May 10, 2013 post if you are interested in new restroom access law information for Maryland or Maine.

On August 2, 2012, Governor Deval Patrick signed Chapter 191 into law. Chapter 191 amends Chapter 270 of the General Laws to require that a “retail establishment” in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must give a customer with an “eligible medical condition” or who uses an ostomy device access to an employee restroom upon request during normal business hours if there is no public restroom immediately available, there are at least three employees working at the time, the facility’s location will not pose a health or safety hazard  to the customer or a security risk to the business. The law states that a customer must provide written proof of an eligible condition from a physician. Unlike the other twelve U.S. states that have similar laws, the Massachusetts law does not specifically mention irritable bowel syndrome, but it appears that IBS qualifies as “any other medical condition that requires immediate access to a restroom facility.”

The full text of the Massachusetts law is linked here. For an extensive earlier post discussing and linking full texts of restroom access laws in other states, as well as “can’t wait” cards and resources in the U.S., U.K, and Australia, see the February 21, 2012 post. These laws are known popularly as “Ally’s Law” after Ally Bain, a young woman with Crohn’s disease, who, as a young teenager,  inspired and advocated for the first such law in Illinois. Please note that each state law has minor differences, so it is important to read and familiarize oneself with the details that apply in a particular state.

Similar bills have been introduced over the years in more U.S. states, but as information isn’t centralized, the current status of each state is difficult to confirm. As of this date, legislation is known to be currently pending in New York. Readers who are aware of further details about states or countries not mentioned in this post are invited to comment on this blog.  The inflammatory bowel disease community has historically been fairly active in advocating for these laws. IBS Impact would like to encourage readers with IBS and those who support us to become more involved in this advocacy issue when there is pending legislation. Our interest and visibility as a community will help accelerate passage and perhaps ensure that IBS is specifically included in the wording of such laws. These small accommodations by businesses can improve quality of life, ability to complete daily errands in public places and participate in community activities for many with IBS and/or conditions with similar restroom access needs.

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