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Local Teen With Crohn’s Disease Launches Nationwide Campaign For Toilet Access In Lower Hutt

In January 2017 12-year-old Nicole Thornton petitioned Parliament, seeking access to workplace toilets for people with medical conditions when no public toilet was available. Nicole has Crohn’s disease. Like the more than 20,000 New Zealanders with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, diarrhoea and urgency are frequent symptoms.

Compounding all their medical challenges, fear of having an accident in public can be a major concern. When the need arises, those with these diseases do not have time to explain their personal medical histories to a stranger and many business owners and their employees are unaware of the challenges they face. While Crohn’s and Colitis NZ Charitable Trust (CCNZ) offers “I Can’t Wait Cards” identifying those with documented medical conditions where urgent access to a toilet might be needed, many businesses still will not honour the card. As a result, many people are simply afraid to leave home.

Nicole’s petition went to Health Select Committee where she bravely presented testimony, receiving wide media coverage. Unfortunately, a bill mandating that businesses provide toilet access to those with medical problems was not recommended. Instead, the committee strongly recommended publicising the “I Can’t Wait” card and “encouraging business owners to allow toilet access via an education campaign”.

On 9 December at 3:15pm CCNZ, Hutt City Council and the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce will jointly launch a nationwide campaign for toilet access. Businesses are being asked to prominently display a poster in their window that they honour the “I Can’t Wait Card”. The launch will take place at the Atrium Café in Lower Hutt. CCNZ Youth Ambassador Nicole, CCNZ Chair Dr. Richard Stein, Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry, and Chamber of Commerce CEO Helen Down will be speaking at the event.

Nicole Thornton, now 15, explains “The goal of this campaign is to have businesses display these stickers throughout every city throughout the country so people like me, as well as those with other medical problems, will feel free to leave home without the fear of having an accident in public. They will see that businesses care.”

Richard Stein, Chair of CCNZ. is excited about Nicole’s initiative. “This campaign can make a real difference in the lives of tens of thousands of New Zealanders who have medical conditions where urgent access to a toilet is so important. I am particularly grateful to Mayor Barry, members of the Lower Hutt City Council and the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce for their enthusiastic support “.

He emphasized that both the stickers and the “I Can’t Wait” cards (which require a doctor’s confirmation of the need for the card) are available at no cost. Participating business will be recognized on the CCNZ webpage, https://crohnsandcolitis.org.nz.

Window posters and “I Can’t Wait” cards can be obtained by emailing Belinda Brown at info@crohnsandcolitis.org.nz.

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