Where's The Bathroom? Tips for Finding a Toilet When You're Out and About
One thing that is often on the minds of IBS sufferers whenever they venture out of their homes and into the public sphere, is locating the nearest bathroom in case of an emergency. Suddenly, something in your life that should be standard (working), or recreational (eating out, going to a movie or play, etc.) can instead become fraught. However, there are a few thing you can do to keep your cool. This includes planning ahead so that you can minimize anxiety about possible bathroom needs and focus on having fun. This is done by determining as best as you are able where the bathrooms are located in proximity to where you will be.
First tip is to call ahead to where you will be to ask about what the bathroom situation is. Where are the bathrooms and how far? Are there any private access bathrooms (sometimes there are, especially for disabled folks). Sometimes the bathrooms are located a bit out of the way and so if it's at all possible, I sometimes plan around that. For instance, I usually check to make sure I am seated at a table at a restaurant closest to the bathroom. For movies, I always make sure to have an aisle seat fairly close to the exit, so if I have to get up suddenly, I am not struggling getting through a throng of people and out the door (for this reason, I tend to avoid peak hours for watching a movie, the times they are more likely to be crowded, and almost always avoid opening weekends). It also helps if a theater room is located close to the bathroom...and yes, I sometimes plan around that, too (if the bathroom is all the way down a flight or two of stairs from the screening room I am in, I sometimes just won't go). I do this for plays and shows as well: make sure I am in an aisle seat, fairly close to the door. Of course, I also tend to be much more careful about what I eat before I go out and during my venture and take my meds with me in case of an impromptu flare. So, I won't be eating a big bag of buttered popcorn or soda (I hate soda anyway). For special events like concerts or plays, I sometimes mention I am disabled, because sometimes a disability-access bathroom tends to be closely situated to the stage or seats than the larger ones.
But what do you do if you're not in a specific place with a bathroom, like a public park, or a parade, or just walking around your town or city? Luckily, in our digital age, technology can help with that. There are plenty of apps you can download on your smart phone that can help you find the nearest public access bathroom. These include Flushd, Sit or Squat, and FindToilets. Most of these are free to download or only charge a nominal fee.
If like me, you don't have a smart phone, you can also download a map at home from the internet from some of these sites or find similar services online before you head out.
Restroom access act
Finally, it's worth noting that there have been great strides in bathroom access laws in recent years.
Currently, at least 16 U.S. states have a version of a law known as the Restroom Access Act on the books.1 This law mandates that businesses with three or more employees working onsite must allow those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other eligible chronic medical conditions access to their bathrooms even if they are not paying customers. States with these laws include Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Washington. In theory you usually need either a doctor's note of support or a medical card to show them if they ask. I personally carry a medical card from the Interstitial Cystitis Association (another illness I have that often requires immediate access to a bathroom). Most businesses are glad to wave me on through with little fuss as soon as I mention I have a health condition. However, the few times a business has tried to give me a hard time, flashing my card silenced them pretty quickly. I do find that though I am fortunate to live in a state with such a law, many businesses are unaware of them. So, while we've come far, we still have a ways to go.
Hopefully, with increased awareness, more states will pass such laws, making it easier for those with IBS, IBD, IC and other disorders to access bathrooms when they need to when they're on the go, ensuring us more freedom.
Have you ever had a public IBS accident?