Hero photograph
Nicole Thornton, Hon. Louisa Wall and Allyson Bain right after Ally and Nicole's presentation at the ASM.
Photo by Crohn's & Colitis New Zealand Charitable Trust

Ally Bain Visit to NZ / I Can't Wait Campaign

Dr Richard Stein, Chair —

On November 27, Allyson (Ally) Baine, JD, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the United States, and Nicole Thornton, 14 year old CCNZ Youth Ambassador, jointly addressed over 400 medical professionals in Wellington.

In attendance at their address at the annual meeting of the NZ Society of Gastroenterology was Health Select Committee Chairperson, the Honourable Louisa Wall.

When Ally was Nicole’s age, she was in a large store in a mall in Chicago, doubled over in pain, urgently needing a toilet. She was refused access to the store’s employee toilet, despite pleading with the manager. Ally had an accident in the store and vowed that this should never happen to anyone else. Together with her representative in the Illinois State Legislature, Kathleen Ryg, Ally was successful in getting the first “Ally’s Law” passed in the state of Illinois. Sixteen other states have since followed suit, all passing their own “Ally’s Laws”. These laws guarantee access to employee toilets to people with medical conditions who may need them urgently if no public toilet is available.

Nicole Thornton, for the past three years, has been trying to get a similar law passed here at home. Through her petition to Parliament and her testimony in front of the Health Committee, she has made major inroads in raising awareness about IBD. Unfortunately, we have yet to see a law in NZ, although Parliament has affirmed the need for better toilet access and encouraged businesses to cooperate.

Nicole and CCNZ will be launching a national campaign to encourage businesses to open their doors and their toilets to people with medical conditions. The campaign will identify store owners who will honour the CCNZ “I Can’t Wait Card” with a sticker in their window, shown below.

Hutt City, Nicole’s home town, has been the first to endorse the campaign and will place the stickers in their city buildings. A media event, in Hutt City surrounding this project is planned, and will take place once the current situation around COVID-19 has settled.

Our goal is to see these stickers in every city throughout the country, but it will take a concerted effort from all of us to approach store owners and city councils to honour our “I Can’t Wait Cards”. More on this campaign will follow over the course of the year, but we hope everyone will join this effort. It will raise awareness and, most importantly, make the lives of people with IBD more liveable. No one should have to fear going out in public to avoid what happened to Ally.