DC lawmakers introduce public restroom access bill for people with medical conditions

Have you ever tried to use a restroom at a business, but weren’t allowed because it was only for employees and customers? 

Well, a new bill could change that rule for some people.

D.C. Councilwoman Brooke Pinto is pushing to allow people with specific medical conditions to be able to use any restroom inside any business in the District without an issue. 

"A young woman came up to me saying she has Crohn’s disease – it is completely debilitating for me. I haven’t been able to leave my house, run errands, or get to work because if the urgency strikes, I am unable sometimes to get to where I need to go," Pinto said. "And she pointed out over a dozen states have versions of these bills." 

The Medical Necessity Access Act would allow anyone with Crohn’s Disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or pregnancy to use a commercial restroom.

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"We have a really big mission in our city to make sure all residents have access to public restrooms in public spaces, which is just a basic necessity we all have whether it’s a D.C. resident or a visitor coming or some of our most vulnerable neighbors who are experiencing homelessness," Pinto said.

Any person who qualifies would be required to show a special certificate that would be attained through D.C. Health and signed off by their doctor. The D.C. Office of Human Rights will be in charge of enforcing that in case someone is turned away.

After receiving feedback from businesses, there are two provisions that would allow them to be excluded from having to follow this rule:

1) If the restroom is far away or in an unsafe location.

2) There must be at least three employees working.

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It was hard to find anyone who didn’t like the idea of this bill moving forward.

"Because they’re humans. And they’re in need and if you’re in a restaurant, and you have to do something, you have to take care of yourselves," said Dennis, a D.C. resident.

"It’s a great idea. My daughter has Crohn’s and for her to be able to use the bathroom whenever she gets a flare would be remarkable as opposed to having to suffer," said Wendy, another D.C. resident.

D.C. native Derrick said he thinks the proposed law would "allow some flexibility and allow people who really need to use the bathroom to use it," 

The city council voted unanimously to get the bill through the first phase and there will be an official second vote on Tuesday, June 7th.