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New Virginia law will guarantee restroom access for some: 'It's embarrassing to talk about'

Driskill: 'I travel an hour to get to work, some days, no problem. Other days, I may have to stop two or three times at a bathroom.'
Posted at 1:07 PM, Jun 13, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia will join more than 20 other states and Washington, D.C. on July 1 when a law goes into effect that will give some people legal access to restrooms in cases of emergency.

When many people leave the house, all they have to consider is if they have their wallet, keys and cellphone. But when Carol Driskill heads out, something else is top of mind.

"I have to know that there's a bathroom close by," Driskill explained.

It is something she knows the answer to because for over the past decade, Driskill has suffered from a short bowel syndrome as a result of surgery. The condition means she has frequent, but unpredictable restroom needs.

"I travel an hour to get to work, some days, no problem," Driskill said. "Other days, I may have to stop two or three times at a bathroom."

And it is why Driskill advocated for legislation this past General Assembly session that was approved and goes into effect July 1 that will give people like her more options in public.

"We need to be able to access a restroom when we need it," Driskill said.

The bill would require stores that do not have a public restroom but do have one for employees to allow customers to use if they suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), have a colostomy bag, or a condition that requires immediate access like pregnancy.

The bill's sponsor, Del. Carrie Coyner (R - Chesterfield), said that by passing the law Virginia joins more than 20 other states. The law, sometime's known as Ally's Law, was first inspired by Ally Bain, a 14-year-old Illinois girl with Crohn's Disease, who was denied an employee restroom at a department store and had an accident.

"It's one of those things it's embarrassing to talk about and so people don't share," Coyner explained. "I was actually shocked during session how many people quietly told me how much they appreciated this bill."

A person would require a prescription to prove they qualify for this law.

However, Coyner said that there would have to be at least two workers at the store at the time and the restroom isn't in a spot that's a health or safety risk to the customer or security risk to the business.

"Putting some guardrails so that businesses that have areas that may not be safe for the public have the ability to say so," Coyner said.

If businesses refuses access to its restroom and a person feels there wasn't an adequate reason to do so they can seek damages in court not to exceed $100.

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