Nova Scotia

Crohns and Colitis Canada campaigns for better public washroom access

Crohns and Colitis Canada wants Halifax businesses to make their washrooms more accessible to the public.

'You want to enjoy the Halifax waterfront, where are you going to go to the washroom?'

Natasha Mistry, a manager at Crohn's and Colitis Canada, attaches a GoHere sticker to the door of a Calgary cafe as part of an initiative to open up restrooms for people with Crohn's, colitis and other forms of incontinence. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

You gotta go, but where?

Finding a public washroom can be challenging at the best of times, but it takes on a new intensity when you suffer from Crohns disease, colitis or any other condition that creates urgency in the search for a toilet.

Crohns and Colitis Canada have launched a program, the GoHere Washroom Access Initiative, which hopes to relieve some of the anxiety caused by a lack of public facilities.

"This is a basic need. We all have to go," Byron Richards of Crohns and Colitis Canada told CBC Radio's Information Morning today.

People with Crohns and colitis have to go with greater frequency, five to 20 times a day, he said.

The organization is talking to businesses in the Halifax area about making it easier, and less embarrassing, for people to use their bathrooms. 

There are public washrooms at the Halifax Commons pool. (CBC)

Canada, and Atlantic Canada in particular, has the highest rate of inflammatory bowel disease in the world, with one in every 150 people suffering from the illnesses.

Richards said people such as pregnant women and seniors also face problems finding a public washroom.

"You want to enjoy the Halifax waterfront, where are you going to go to the washroom? Going to a business can be cumbersome and it can be embarrassing as well."

And public parks and soccer fields, "family friendly" sites, are also traditionally poor places to find a bathroom.

Corporate responsibility

Richards said the organization is approaching businesses and asking them to put a "GoHere" decal on their windows.

"We lean on corporate responsibility side and their compassion," he said. "Education is important. It is not a 'want to,' it's a 'have to.' We promote their business on our website. They will get free advertising."

The target, he said, is mainly smaller shops, retail places that may not have readily available washrooms.

"Another feature of our GoHere washroom app is that produces an electronic card that you can show on your electronic device that says I am a Crohns, Colitis IB sufferer and I need to go to the washroom."

The program was launched this spring in Calgary where 20 businesses have signed up. Two businesses approached in Halifax are now on board and Richards said the organization will soon speak with city officials.

The end goal is to have public washroom legislation like some American states and New Zealand, he said.


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