Roughly a quarter of a million Canadians live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, autoimmune diseases that inflame the gastrointestinal tract and make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste in a healthy manner. Those who live with these diseases experience abdominal pain, fatigue, bloating, cramping, and other symptoms including, notably, a frequent and urgent need to use the washroom.

Pretty much everyone has, at one point or another, had an urgent need to use the bathroom while out and about. We all know the terror and anxiety of not knowing where the nearest washroom is and fearing we might have an accident. Now imagine, instead of that being a rare occurrence, it happened multiple times a day.

People living with Crohn’s or colitis have a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders because of how difficult it can be to live a normal life. “Going out in public can be scary and makes me extremely anxious,” says Tiffany, a volunteer with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “When I’m thinking about going to a store, if they don’t have a washroom I can use, I’m probably not going to shop there.”

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada recently created an app called the GoHere Washroom Locator that helps people living with Crohn’s or colitis lead a normal and engaged life. The GoHere Washroom Locator is a free, GPS-enabled smartphone app that helps those in need find nearby washrooms, and features a virtual washroom access card that explains the user’s medical need. Local businesses are encouraged to join the GoHere Washroom Access program and have their locations added onto the app.

For Tiffany and others, it is a fundamental matter of accessibility that spells the difference between an active life and isolation. “I can’t live a normal life without access to a washroom,” Tiffany says. “Without knowing I will have that access, I just don’t go out. It’s no different than how someone with a wheelchair is not going to go to a store that only has stairs.”