Amber Davies was asked by pub staff if she was dealing drugs after she came out of a disabled toilet.
The student uses an ostomy bag because she was diagnosed with bowel condition ulcerative colitis aged 13.
On a night out at JD Wetherspoon’s The Dragon Inn in Birmingham, she went to the disabled toilet several times, using a radar key to access it.
But she says that the staff accused her of taking drugs or having sex in the bathroom because they didn’t understand why she was going so often, as she doesn’t look sick.
Amber wrote an open letter to the pub chain about her experiences earlier this year, which went viral.
And now the pub has listened to what she said, teaming up with charity Chron’s and Colitis UK to install signs in all their bathrooms reminding people that not every disability is visible.
Following the news, Amber said: ‘After speaking up about an experience I encountered using an accessible toilet in a Wetherspoons chain recently, I was overwhelmed by the support and response from the community of people with IBD, stomas and beyond.
‘Despite this, I was saddened by the number of people opening up and talking about similar encounters and experiences in various public places.
‘Although we have come a long way, this shows that we still have a distance to go with raising awareness, understanding and a profile for hidden disability.
‘That’s why Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s Not Every Disability is Visible campaign is so important. I am glad to see that Wetherspoons have taken action and are supporting the charity’s campaign following speaking up about the issue and I hope that they follow through with implementing their proposed changes, understanding and behaviours.
‘Through my social media platform, I will continue to be transparent about living with a hidden disability and a stoma also in hope that eventually, society thinks inclusively of everybody.’
They’re the first major pub chain to sign up to the charity’s Not Every Disability is Visible campaign, which aims to stop the stigma and discrimination towards people with hidden health conditions.
A survey found that half of people with conditions said they have felt prevented from going to restaurants (49%) and pubs (43%) because they fear discrimination.
The hidden illness means people look fine on the outside but they suffer from frequent diarrhoea and an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Some, like Amber, also have ostomy bags, where waste is collected in a bag outside the body, and need to use the bathroom to empty the bag.
Whilst someone may look ‘okay’ on the outside, they may crucially need to use the accessible toilets, due to symptoms such as urgent and frequent diarrhoea.
The charity launched the campaign in April and say they have sent over 48,000 emails to the 15 largest pub and restaurant chains across the country but JD Wetherspoon leading the way as the first chain to come on board with the campaign.
They will put signs in all bathrooms and train staff to help them better understand invisible conditions.
The charity said over 80% of people with Crohn’s or Colitis said they feel more comfortable visiting places with the Not Every Disability is Visible signs installed, powerfully demonstrating that these signs have a real impact on people’s lives.
Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive at Crohn’s & Colitis UK said: ‘JD Wetherspoon has made a simple but significant change in minimising the impact Crohn’s and Colitis can have on people’s lives – we know that these signs make a real difference to people living with these devastating conditions.
‘We are grateful to the company for joining our campaign and showing their commitment to tackling stigma and discrimination for all their customers.”
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: ‘We want to make sure all of our customers feel comfortable when visiting any of our pubs. We’re delighted to install these new signs that help to both increase awareness that not all disabilities are visible, and to ensure that anyone who needs to, can feel confident using our accessible toilets.’
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