IBD/Crohns: Ally, of course, I’ve been following your story for years as a blogger. And my audience, of course, always wants to hear more about The Restroom Access Act. First I just wanted to ask you Ally, how is your health today?
Ally: My health is great, I’m actually in remission thanks to Dr Rubin and his medical team. So I couldn’t be more grateful for how I’ve been feeling. Thank you for asking.
IBD/Crohns: I was just wondering as I was doing some Internet research, since the law was passed in your state, have you ever needed to use it?
Ally: You know, that’s actually really funny. Soon after it was passed I actually got into remission, so I didn’t really have the flare-ups that I had had to initiate the law, but I do know that a lot of other people who have contacted me have used the law in Illinois as well as the 11 other states, so I am very happy that it has helped so many people.
IBD/Crohns: I’m sure you’re hearing from people that it’s been a positive force in their lives to feel more empowered to have this act behind them? Are there any stories that people have shared with you that you can talk about?
Ally: Yes, actually, there was a woman in Chicago who said that prior to the law she couldn’t find restrooms or that she wasn’t strong enough to be able to go out shopping with her friends because she was in fear that she wouldn’t find one, but since the law she has been able to. But there is more to people feeling comfortable than just restroom access and there is also the importance of finding that quality medical care and seeking out resources such as Crohn’s And Me.com and CCFA.org, and Dr. Rubin can speak more about not only the importance of restroom access but controlling other symptoms as well.
IBD/Crohns: Absolutely. As far as Ally’s Law goes, there are 11 states now, is that still correct? [note: there are a total of 12 states with a Restroom Access Act]
Ally: Yes, that’s right.
IBD/Crohns: Are there more states that are ready to go? Is there anything in the works there?
Ally: As of now, there are a few other states that are in the works such as New York, which I heard is going through the House, so it’s very exciting and it’s great to see so many people across the country getting involved and reaching out to their legislators.
IBD/Crohns: As I was doing my research, preparing for this interview, I saw that you were talking in other interviews about a federal version of the law. What are the plans there, what’s happening as far as that?
Ally: We’re just continuing to spread awareness about Crohn’s disease and the importance of seeking out resources including getting the law passed in other states as well as on a federal level. I’ve been speaking to different people about that, helping to gain interest and educate others about its importance and why it needs to be passed on a federal level. A bunch of people are still working on it and I look forward to seeing how it progresses.
IBD/Crohns: Do you foresee it, perhaps, being part of the Americans With Disabilities Act?
Ally: As of now, I’m not sure. I know that’s wonderful federal legislation, and it would be great for it to be adopted in that way, but we’re still working on it. So, we’ll see.
IBD/Crohns: What can we do? What can I do? What can my readers do to propel this forward and get it passed in their states and then to stay involved and stay engaged so that when the federal push becomes something that requires more people to be involved, what can they do?
Ally: I would say to just continue to use your voice, be an advocate for yourself and for others, and that goes for gaining more recognition of the Restroom Access Act as well as seeking out a strong support system, whether that be having a legislator hear you, having quality medical care, having family and friends around you in the good and bad times and just seeking out resources in addition to the Restroom Access Act such as CCFA.org, and Crohn’s And Me.com. There are so many resources out there to help people with Crohn’s disease and other illnesses and the Restroom Access Act is definitely one way that people can continue to use their voice and be an advocate and help make change for millions of others around the country.
IBD/Crohns: I did want to ask you -- IBD is a very personal thing. Myself I have ulcerative colitis and I actually had j-pouch surgery years ago, and it’s quite a different thing for me today. But as a teenager with IBD, you almost can’t imagine a worse thing to have happen to you. How has being the face of Ally’s Law impacted you through high school and through college? You obviously are very successful and doing what you like to do, but it couldn’t have been easy.
Ally: There are definitely challenges to having Crohn’s disease, but there are challenges everyone faces -– hardships -- and I think the important aspect of Crohn’s disease as well as any other challenge is knowing that it can be overcome. In the case of my Crohn’s disease, I feel I have overcome it. I am very appreciative for that for so many reasons and I think having the Restroom Access Act be passed means so much including the fact that it shows that even with a chronic condition such as Crohn’s you can live and you should live a normal life. It’s very possible to do so, it’s important to do so. And to use your voice in that whole process is very important as well.
What can you do find out about plans to pass a Restroom Access Act in your state? Contact your legislator.