Do you think twice about taking long road trips, or shopping the outlet malls because you just don’t know if you’ll be able to find a restroom when you need one? I’ll never forget having to stop at a convenience store when I was nine-months pregnant. I asked the store manager where I could find the restroom. He said, “We don’t have a public bathroom here. Try the gas station down the road.” I explained my urgent need but he didn’t care. I was irate! My panic and outrage made no impression on him. I begged him to reconsider. I even offered to pay to use the restroom, but he wouldn’t budge.
Experiences like that create a lot of anxiety for women, especially when they have bladder issues. When we need to go, we need to go - NOW! Good news! The medical profession is making improvements in recognizing women’s needs in the area of bladder leakage. I recently toured the Beaumont Women’s Urology Center in Royal Oak, Michigan. It’s a new facility and the first of its kind in the Midwest. I was impressed to see that it was designed exclusively for women’s urological care and sexual health. It was particularly exciting to hear that a “Bathroom Card” can be prescribed by a physician or nurse practitioner, giving ladies the green light to gain access to private restrooms at business establishments. “A store that says, ‘No we don’t have a bathroom, but really does, has to let our ladies in to use the bathroom,” said Donna J. Carrico, clinical director and a nurse practitioner at Beaumont’s Women’s Urology Center, “A lot of people don’t know that it’s a law.”
Beaumont employee, Jill Sklar wrote the legislation for the bathroom card. Eight years ago, she was denied access to a restroom at a children’s shoe store, despite her medical need due to Crohn’s disease. “I couldn’t understand why there weren’t laws to protect people who have a medical need to use a restroom,” Jill said, “There’s handicap parking and special menus for people who need it. There should be access to bathrooms for those who have a medical need.” With the help of her state representative and state senator, she wrote the legislature, and in 2009 it became the law in Michigan. It is currently law in 11 states, and pending in 19 others. The “Restroom Access Act” gives women with urinary issues, (including pregnant women) a whole new level of freedom.
At Beaumont Hospital's Women’s Urology Center, woman with bladder leakage can receive a bathroom prescription card that has a preprinted explanation on it to make it easy for retail staff to understand. It can be used at any business open to the public, where at least 2 people are working. In my book, Jill Sklar is a hero for women everywhere! Imagine the options this opens up! Site-seeing, long road trips, shopping in unfamiliar areas – it becomes a lot easier when there’s no fear of being denied access to the restrooms!
Can you feel the shift in today’s culture? When it comes to women’s health, our voices are starting to be heard! Has your voice been heard?