My Number One (Or Two) Fear – Allyson Bain’s Story, Restroom Access Act And Ally’s Law

Posted by Trish

Fears.  We all have them.  If someone were to ask you what yours was, would you know?  I would… Allyson Bain.  Heard of her?  I’m not afraid of her per se, I’m afraid of what happened to her.  She has lived through my number one, number two fear.  In 2004, at 14 years old she was denied use of an Old Navy restroom by employees despite explanation from her mother to the manager about medical issues and had an embarrassing accident in the middle of the store.  This is my worst fear.  It has never happened to me but it is the one that has influenced nearly every decision in my life for over a decade.

My mind runs much like the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation commercials asking questions like, “what if I eat the wrong thing…what if I suddenly have to go…what if my abdominal pain and cramps end our night before it even starts…what if I can’t hide my symptoms…”.  While I don’t have Crohn’s or Colitis (yes, I was tested early on for those) my reaction to gluten is the same type of reaction as Ally’s issues.  At one point, I was going literally twenty times or more a day.  It was extremely painful, inconvenient and frustratingly life altering.  I was the girl that could leave class without the sought-after pass (and without even asking), the one who spent a couple periods a day in the nurse’s office including lunch or could even take a test in there if I was having a particularly rough day.  I had a special situation for the SAT and someone who would literally follow me to the bathroom when I took the ACT (talk about uncomfortable).  Over time, I developed countless habits and tricks to try to drive down the anxiety when venturing out of the house; it was nuts but it worked a bit.  I’ll tell you about some of those tactics later.

Back to Ally.  Rather than trying to just get over it, Miss Bain made sure that her unpleasant incident could be more easily avoided in the future.  She helped write a bill that was unanimously passed in the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law in 2005.  The Restroom Access Act or Ally’s Law requires that businesses must allow people with medical conditions or pregnancy to be permitted to use employee only restroom facilities.  There are a few requirements such as there has to be more than one employee working at the time for store safety reasons and you have to show medical proof like a note from a doctor or identification card (stipulations vary a bit from state to state).  It has been passed in at least 15 states including Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.  I congratulate her and thank her for what all she has done and wish her continued success.

I realize that writing this leaves me open to mean and immature comments because so many jackasses exist anymore but I’m writing it anyway.  The thoughts and fears are quite real and not only for me.  I’ve already been exposed to plenty of nightmarish stories from celiac sufferers and gluten sensitive people who have had numerous “accidents” like Ally Bain.  But people like her talking and facing the uncomfortable topics, are what brought helpful laws like this into existence.  Now, there are also apps and websites to aid people in locating restrooms too.  You know why those exist?  Because some people need them.  Don’t make it worse by being mean as the urgent situation is rough enough.  Want to laugh or crack a joke?  Shit yourself and see how you feel.  Bet you won’t be laughing then.

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