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RESTROOMACCESS By MELANIE TRUSTY Capital News Service LANSING – Some people don’t understand what it’s like to have a medical condition that requires immediate access to a restroom but the only one nearby is off-limits and only for employees. So says Jill Sklar, a board member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Sklar, a Crohn’s disease patient, helped develope legislation that would give employee bathroom access rights to people with bowel or bladder incontinence due to disease, injury, cancer or pregnancy. She was denied access to an employee-only restroom about five years ago while shopping for shoes with her son, she said. “It’s humiliating to beg to use a bathroom and have them turn you down,” Sklar said. Crohn’s disease is a chronic type of inflammatory bowel disease primarily involving the intestinal tract that can cause severe diarrhea and abdominal pain, according to MayoClinic.com. Sklar said she wants Michigan to pass a restroom access law because medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel disease syndrome are disabilities. When individuals with these medical conditions need a restroom they need it immediately, said Bernard Riker, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, based in Farmington Hills. An access law would make patients’ lives a lot easier when they’re in public places, Riker said. The restroom access bill requires patients to provide an employee with a prescription signed by a doctor. “Most patients we talked with have no issue presenting a doctor’s note,” Riker said. “They would rather carry the note than be denied access.” Riker said there’s been resistance to the bill primarily because people don’t understand the principle. “We’re not trying to move mountains or anything,” Riker said. Sklar said the issue isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. “It’s about granting accommodations to people who have disabilities,” she said. “It’s a human issue.” Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber recognizes the difficulties that individuals experience from these medical conditions but feels the bill would cause more problems. The bill would create new liability thresholds for employers, she said. Block said the state doesn’t need to get involved in this area. But Sklar said the law would benefit patients, businesses and the state’s economy. “I did most shopping online for several years,” Sklar said. Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, sponsors the bill that is in the Commerce and Tourism Committee in the Senate. About 45,000 people in Michigan have Crohn’s disease, Riker said.
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