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Crohn’s sufferer fights for access to workplace toilets

31 January 2017

12-year-old with Crohn’s fights for the right to use workplace toilets

Wellington, 31 January 2017: A 12-year-old girl with Crohn’s disease is presenting a petition to Labour MP, Hon Trevor Mallard on parliament steps today at 11am. The petition aims to change the law, guaranteeing the 15,000 – 20,000 New Zealanders living with the illness have access to workplace toilets throughout New Zealand.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis (collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, IBD) in the world. The degree of disability it causes is more severe than type 1 diabetes and epilepsy. These diseases often strike in childhood and can cause excruciating abdominal pain, diarrhea and bleeding.

There is no cure for these ‘silent diseases’, silent because people do not talk openly about the symptoms. Those afflicted often need to plan their days out around toilet locations. Even a short trip away from home can be incredibly stressful and end with an embarrassing accident. This is especially difficult for children and teens with IBD, who can already be socially isolated due to extended hospitalisations, surgeries, and missed time from school.

The 12-year-old girl behind the petition, Nicole Thornton, started her fight for a law change while at New Zealand’s Camp Purple Live – a five-day camp for children and teens with these diseases, sponsored by Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand Charitable Trust (CCNZ).

Crohn’s & Colitis NZ Trustee, Dr Richard Stein, who is also a gastroenterologist at Hutt Valley DHB, said the petition has the potential to change thousands of lives.

“Inflammatory Bowel Disease can cause embarrassing symptoms for people of all ages and lead to social isolation.

“During flares, people need to have immediate access to a toilet. People deserve the right to feel at ease when they are out and about. Having access to New Zealand workplace toilets is a crucial step in normalising their lives.”

There is currently an ‘I can’t wait card’ for those living with IBD, which states the holder has a medical condition and needs to use a toilet quickly. Unfortunately, the card is not enforceable by law and businesses often turn people away due to a lack of understanding.

The Camp Purple Toilet Access Initiative petition collected more than 2,000 signatures in its first 24 hours and calls for Kiwi’s to sign the petition and help get a law passed. A law change will give those with IBD and other conditions such as pregnancy, access to workplace toilets across New Zealand or businesses risk a fine for being non-compliant.

To sign the petition head to www.crohnsandcolitis.org.nz or visit the Facebook page “I can’t wait NZ”.

To donate to Camp Purple Live, visit https://givealittle.co.nz/org/camppurple

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