Student Taking Stand For Ally's Law

Wednesday, April 23rd 2008, 10:25 pm
By: News On 6

Healthy Oklahomans take things for granted every day.  But a student at the University of Tulsa wants to change that, at least when it comes to Crohn's Disease and one of its life-altering side effects.

News On 6 anchor Jennifer Loren reports Leigh Anne Joyce wants some simple legislation, called Ally's Law, passed in Oklahoma and she's looking for help.

At 19-years-old, Joyce has already received an education beyond her years in the field of medicine.  Two years ago she found herself having to use the bathroom up to 50 times a day.  She was diagnosed with a form of inflammatory bowel disease known as Crohn's Disease.

"At first I didn't want anyone to know. I was like everything's fine. I'm just not feeling good. But then you hit a point where you're like this is who I am and it's not a big deal anymore," said Joyce.

Being a teenager with Crohn's Disease was hard for Leigh Anne for many reasons. But the main reason was because every day events like shopping trips had to be mapped out and planned in advance.

"I wouldn't go out with my friends. I wouldn't go to the stores I liked because I knew I couldn't use the restroom. My entire day was planned around where I could use the restroom. At 17 that's really hard," said Joyce.

Many public places don't have public restrooms, but Leigh Anne wants to change that.  She's started a letter-writing campaign to Oklahoma lawmakers, hoping to pass the Restroom Access Act or Ally's Law, named after 12-year-old Ally Bain.

"We decided to take a stand so that what happened to me wouldn't happen to anyone again," said Joyce.

On Crohn's & Me's website, Ally talks about an emergency restroom situation she had in an Old Navy store.  She was denied access to a bathroom and had an accident in front of everyone.  But now with Ally's Law in place in her home state of Illinois, that won't happen to her again.

Ally's Law requires all retail establishments to allow customers with proof of a medical issue to use their bathroom in an emergency.

"So it's important to not only get this law passed for the little kids and the adults and everybody who has these problems, but to get the word out about Crohn's and also get some promotion for it because it's really not a well-known disease," said Joyce.

It's a small accommodation that could make a huge difference for someone like Leigh Anne.

Leigh Anne is asking anyone who wants to help to write or e-mail their legislator and tell them about Ally's Law.