A big concern for people living with Crohn’s and Colitis disease is finding restroom accessibility, since they may use the washroom more frequently when experiencing a flare-up.
Mississauga is one of the first cities to initiate the GoHere Washroom Finder App, which gives people the opportunity to search for the closest public washroom.
CK DesGrosseilliers, the Manager of Marketing and Communications at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada says they’re trying to remove the stigma attached to the disease.
“There’s an inconvenience in terms of those high urges to go to the washroom. Accommodating those means that our community has become much more inclusive,” DesGrosseilliers told Humber News.
The app uses a phone’s GPS system to locate the nearest washrooms. It also gives users the option to rate the cleanliness, and add washrooms that aren’t already identified on the app.
Users can rate the washrooms based on cleanliness, accessibility and hours of operation, so other people can choose their washroom preferences accordingly.
Natasha Mistry, Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, says the GoHere initiative contains three components: the washroom Finder App, a storefront decal incentive and a washroom access card.
Mistry says her group reaches out to local businesses and ask if they’re willing to open their washroom to anyone who needs it for medical purposes.
If they agree, they receive a free decal, which they post on their storefront windows to show customers their washroom is accessible.
The GoHere Washroom Access Card has a medical alert message that tells the retailer the person they are meeting is living with Crohn’s and Colitis, and is in urgent need of washroom services.
“Most retailers are quite open and understanding when they see these cards, but not all of them are. The whole idea is to increase washroom access by getting people access to the existing facilities that are out in the community,” Mistry said.
According to Mistry, the Canadian public is not attuned to this issue, and we don’t have public facilities available on the streets like other countries do.
“Our goal is to get legislation in place that enforces all businesses to have their bathrooms open for people living with Crohn’s and Colitis, and other medical needs,” she said.
A survey done by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada in 2011 shows that people with this disease go to the washroom between five and twenty times a day.
“Sometimes it can be false alarms and sometimes it’s a real need to go. With that condition, you can imagine that they would prefer staying at home,” Mistry said.
Darlene Utarid, Business Analyst for Facilities and Property Management for the City of Mississauga says that her city is committed to making its facilities accessible and comfortable for everyone who visits.
Utarid says the city has partnered with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, to make Mississauga the first municipality in Ontario to implement this initiative.