October – BIG month for People with Disabilities

As I have held the harness handle each morning as Makiko guides me into work, whether that be at one of the high schools I serve, the University of North Texas, or at my office building, I have been reminded of the importance of this month, October, for people with disabilities, especially those who are blind or visually impaired.

October is…

  • National Disability Employment Awareness Month
  • World Blindness Awareness Month
  • Eye Care Awareness Month & Children’s Vision Month
  • the month of National Braille Week (October 10th – 16th)
  • the month of White Cane Safety Day (October 15th)
  • the month of World Sight Day (October 13th)

Each of these are huge by themselves but together make a pretty big month.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month was declared in 1988 by the US Congress to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with disabilities.

This is HUGE to me both professionally and personally.

As a person with a disability in the workforce, I am blessed to have a very rewarding job that I absolutely love to go to, where as a person with a disability I am treated as an an equal and I have the accommodations and supports to work as one. I have an amazing supervisor who has been there for me as I continue to lose vision, is not afraid to learn or ask questions about accommodating someone with vision loss, and is just very generally supportive. I recognize though that not everybody has this opportunity to be equally employed or have an accommodating supervisor.. but that’s what this month is about.. helping highlight the importance of hiring someone with a disability and the contributions that they CAN have to the workplace. 

Professionally as many of you all aware are, I am a Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of Texas – now the Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services, formerly known as DARS. My passion/job is helping high school students and young adults with disabilities figure out their next steps after high school and how they can transition into employment. With that, I absolutely love when employers see these individuals who at first they didn’t think would be good employees or didn’t understand how they would be able to employ them, and then years later they see what amazing, devoted, hard-working, long-term employees they are and how they are an asset to the business in many ways.

It has been shown that when an individual with a disability is given the accommodations they need and are in an accessible environment, they often stay longer than their counterparts without disabilities. So, spending a little extra for a piece of Assistive Technology will pay off in the long-run when that person stays for years and years whereas they are spending a lot of money in on boarding and training of new employees who don’t stay. A lot of this is because individuals with disabilities have a hard time finding employment so when they find a good job, they often try harder to maintain it and make up for areas that they have difficulty in or aren’t able to do due to their disability. People with disabilities are often very LOYAL to their employer. People with disabilities often have to be creative in their personal and professional lives to “get the job done” and therefore are often more flexible and think with an open and creative mind. This is often a great asset on the job!

Of course, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped us TREMENDOUSLY in making sure that individuals with disabilities are given reasonable accommodations and to prevent discrimination as much as possible for employing individuals with disabilities. 

(Random fact: Did you know that public access for people with service animals and employing someone with a service animal are covered under different sections of the ADA? Public access rights are covered under Title III but reasonable accommodations are covered under Title I. What this means is an employee, in most situations, has to apply for a reasonable accommodation to bring their guide dog or service dog with them to work and in most situations, it has to be approved unless it provides to be an undue hardship on the business.) 

Now, I am charging YOU, yes you.. the person reading this.. next time you are looking at your candidate pool or interviewing someone, next time you are sitting on an interview panel, or giving input on hiring practices, please consider all of this.. please help make your workplace more inclusive as a whole and don’t discount someone’s abilities just because they have a disability.

World Blindness Awareness Month was created to help the world understand the realities of living with vision loss, encouraging people to become more aware of individuals with visual impairments and how they are vital members of society.

Eye Care Awareness Month and Children’s Vision Month are both in October to encourage individuals to get routine eye exams and take care of their eye health. One place I read stated that 80% of blindness is avoidable through prevention or treatment. (I’m not sure I believe that though.) Children’s Vision Month is to encourage parents specifically to take their children to eye doctors appointments and they can get their vision examined starting as an infant. Often times vision problems are the cause for difficulties at school but parents/teachers don’t realize it until after struggles.

National Braille Week was October 10th – 16th and aimed to raise awareness of Braille and other non-visual systems that open up written text and literacy to visually impaired individuals.

Personally, I am not a Braille reader but I have started learning it here and there. I think if I had lost my sight earlier on, I would have been more dedicated to it for literacy purposes, but right now, I use other methods of accessing written text that work very well for me. I switch off between using large print (when my eyes are fresh and I’m not tired) and audio. At work, when I’m not face to face with a consumer, I’m usually accessing and writing text and so I use my screen reader a lot for that, in addition to my CCTV and scanning documents into my computer using the PEARL camera and OpenBook or a regular scanner.

However, Braille is an amazing system and is absolutely essential to the literacy of our youth who can’t access written text visually. 

White Cane Safety Day was first signed and proclaimed by Lyndon B. Johnson on October 15, 1984. It is a day to celebrate the achievements of people with blindness or vision loss and also to raise awareness of the white cane as a symbol of independence for people with vision loss. In recent years, many White Cane Safety Day celebrations also include recognition of guide dogs as well.

I LOVE White Cane Safety Day (also known as White Cane Day – WCD) every year. In the past, I have organized it for my community with two staff members of UNT. This year, we decided to join forces with Fort Worth and participated in their White Cane Day — and loved it!! It was at the Fort Worth Stockyards. There was a Scavenger Hunt where we learned different facts about things that affected individuals with visual impairments, such as the development of the first guide dog school in the US, The Seeing Eye. We saw the Cattle Run, which was totally cool. There were a lot of guide dog handlers there so that is always fun to see new faces and catch up with old friends. We had a terrific lunch and had the opportunity to listen to inspirational stories of people with visual impairments and how they have overcome their blindness .

Makiko is seated in harness in front of the Fort Worth Stockyards Visitor Center. Cattle of many different colors moving forward in the Cattle RunSeveral people in red shirts posing - one lady with a yellow lab, one lady with a black lab, two other ladies standing, one male standing, and one male in a wheelchair

World Sight Day is on the second Thursday of every October and is designed to bring awareness to eye conditions that are avoidable.

World Sight Day has 3 goals:

  1. To raise public awareness about blindness and vision impairment
  2. To influence governments to support blindness prevention
  3. To educate people about avoidable blindness

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), under the direction of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), and the Lion’s Club International work together to coordinate activities and events the world over to celebrate World Sight Day.

So, all this to say.. please be open minded when thinking about employing or working with an individual with a disability and realize they have many strengths and abilities. There is a great website, JAN – Job Accommodation Network, that does an excellent job at describing how to accommodate people with different disabilities. I encourage you to check it out. If you’re still not sure, feel free to ask me or another trusted individual with a disability.. most of us would be glad to share our stories and knowledge with you. You can also contact your state’s vocational rehabilitation program if you would like to know more or are interested in hiring people with disabilities. I also encourage you to get routine eye exams and encourage your loved ones to too. Individuals with disabilities choose many different tools (for example – for individuals with visual impairments, some use Braille, some prefer audio.. some use a cane, some use a guide dog) to be independent in their personal and professional lives and it is their choice what they want to use.

Oh.. and one more thing.. Happy Halloween! 🙂

Makiko, black lab, seated in harness in front of a squirrel and turtle cardboard cut out, with pumpkins. Her tongue is sticking out due to the heat. Jessica and Steven (white female and male) doing a selfie with pumpkins in the background. Makiko, a black Labrador, is positioned in front of a lot of pumpkins in a field. She is in harness and looking off into the distance to the right.Makiko is looking up at the camera in a pumpkin outfit that fits much like a cape.

International Guide Dog Day

Happy International Guide Dog Day. This is a very special day for guide dog handlers and their guides across the United States. We honor and cherish our guide dogs each and every day but today is a very special day to honor them. I would like to share some Guide Dog 101 information with you in honor of today. This post is intended for people who do not have  lot of knowledge about guide dogs but also those who are very active in the guide dog/blind community.

Makiko, a black labrador retriever, is photographed at her level next to her handler, Jessica. makiko is in harness and her “do not pet me” sign is visible. Makiko is focussed straight ahead and is not paying attention to the photographer.

Fact of the Day: Only about 2% of people with visual impairments travel with a guide dog. To me this is WILD. I do understand people’s reasoning for NOT wanting a guide dog, such as the additional responsibility, attention, and costs associated with a guide dog, but to me the pros so outweigh the cons. I also understand that there are many very confident cane travelers out there. While I CAN use a cane if I needed to and would be able to safely navigate my environment, it is just NOT my cup of tea. There are many reasons for this but I believe the biggest two are: 1) I like that my dog moves me AROUND obstacles, as opposed to the cane just finds them and 2) Having a guide dog breaks a lot of the social awkwardness that society tends to have when greeting or socializing with a blind person. Choosing the guide dog lifestyle is a huge decision but it is one that i hope more and more blind people choose.

Guide dogs mean so much to their handlers: independence, freedom, safe travel, confidence, ability to travel gracefully, peace, partnership, companionship, ability to “live more, our best friends, and our family. We establish such a deep connection and bond with our guide dog, it’s indescribable.

Guide dogs have many great skills – helping their handler travel in a straight line from point A to point B (something I had some trouble with when using a cane), stopping for all changes in elevation, such as stairs and curbs, stopping for overhead obstacles, such as tree limbs, and avoiding obstacles in their path. They are also taught to be “intelligently disobedient.” What does that mean? If the handler gives the dog a command and the dog determines that it is unsafe to obey that command, the dog will disobey and not listen. Many times the dog will make another decision to replace that command but still accomplish the same goal. Guide dogs also of course have to have impeccable manners because they go practically everywhere with us. I can’t tell you how much it makes me smile when others tell me that they didn’t realize a guide dog was in the room or under my feet/table because she is so well behaved and quiet. This is how it should be.

Guide dogs work hard but also play hard. To keep up the bond and help the dog continue to love their lifestyle, guide dog handlers give their dogs lots of opportunity to play and just be a DOG (a well behaved dog though) when that harness comes off.

Most guide dogs work for around 8-10 years. They are usually 1.5 years old to 2 years old when they graduate guide dog school so around 10-12 years old, most guide dogs retire. At Guide Dogs for The Blind, the handler has the option of keeping the retired guide when he/she retires even if they are getting a new guide, giving the retired guide to a family member or close friend, giving the guide back to his/her puppy raiser, adopting him/her out, or giving her back to Guide Dogs for The Blind as they have a long waiting list of people that love to adopt retired guides because they are so well behaved. If I don’t keep Makiko, I plan to give her to my Mom. Makiko and my Mom have a very special bond (yet the bond doesn’t interfere with our work together). My sister has claimed my second retired guide! 🙂

Guide dogs help their handlers with travel, but there is a huge emotional aspect to them as well. The companionship and loyalty of a guide dog is so strong. When I have rough days, Makiko, loving on her, and just sitting with her is one of my biggest coping strategies. She can tell when I or someone I love isn’t feeling well or happy and comes to give us LOTS of attention. (Beware of all the kisses!) As many of you know, I graduated with Makiko 2 months after my father passed away so Makiko has been an extra level of companionship and comfort for me through the grieving process.

In addition to helping our emotional well-being through their companionship, when you get a guide dog you have an instant support system and community. The sense of community with guide dog handlers has been one of my many favorite parts of becoming a guide dog handler. Guide Dogs for The Blind is one of the only guide dog schools that has an Alumni Association and the bonds that handlers form because of this is so powerful. However, guide dog handlers from across the world also come together on social media and the internet and have powerful discussions about guide dogs and issues surrounding our community. It is an honor to be a part of. I’m working with another guide dog handler from Houston, Vince Morvillo, to start a Guide Dogs for the Blind Alumni Chapter in Texas. We should be official in June! As I’ve mentioned, the community of guide dog handlers is very strong and very therapeutic. It only makes sense that the GREAT state of Texas has an Alumni Chapter.. did you know that according to NFB (National Federation of the Blind) Texas is one of the largest states of people with visual impairments?

It also only makes sense that we have one of the GREATEST groups of puppy raisers, Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers (LSGDR), that is growing exponentially!!!!! I know I’ve said it a thousand times before but we really wouldn’t have the guide dogs that we do without such devoted puppy raisers and Guide Dogs for The Blind staff that supervise and help train these puppy raisers. These puppy raisers are also great advocates for the service dog and blind communities!

Below is additional information about guide dogs that I would like to share with you:

The different schools and handlers have many different ways of training or reinforcing their dog’s behavior, such as using food rewards, positive reinforcement, collar corrections, clicker training, and a Gentle Leader/headcollar. Please note that guide dog handlers are trained in the proper way to reward their dog and positively reinforce good behavior when the dog is working well and behaving properly, but also how to safely and effectively correct the dog when they are not. Doing a collar correction right will not hurt the dog but will get the message across. The same applies with a Gentle Leader/head harness. Many think that these are muzzles, which they are not. I put one on Makiko this last weekend when we were around over a hundred dogs and it naturally just keeps her attention on me a little more but also gives me a little more control. She can still eat, drink, open her mouth, etc., with one on.

(I would like to think that no guide dog handler is abusing their dog with corrections but of course if you suspect abuse or neglect, please look on their harness as there is usually identifying information about what school the guide is from and call the school to let them help take care of it.)

Feeding and Relieving:
Guide dogs are on a specific feeding and relieving schedule to help make their handler’s day go smoothly and so that the guide dog doesn’t need to go to the bathroom during an important meeting or event. Most guide dogs are fed and given water at specific times each day, and of course given additional water as needed. Because of this routine, they have specific relieving habits that make it pretty easy on the handler to schedule into their day. This is another reason why it is important for others to not give food or treats to a guide dog because it will interfere with this.

Pedestrian Travel:
Because guide dog handlers can’t drive, they often travel extensively on foot. With the help of their guide dog, they can safely lighted intersections and streets. It is important that the guide dog pay VERY close attention when doing this so that they can pull their handler out of the way if needed. Please remember that guide dogs and their handlers have right of way ALWAYS.

Sighted Guide:
There are some situations when handlers may choose not to work their guide and heel their dog beside them. If this is the case, the handler will ask to stand on the person’s left side and take their arm. The handler will take the arm of the sighted person. They will usually grab right above the elbow. Please don’t try and drag a blind person with or without a guide dog. That’s not fun for anyone. 🙂 Please also do NOT grab the harness handle or leash from the blind handler. This will totally confuse the dog and the handler and could potentially cause a disastrous situation. Using your voice is much more helpful to help give them appropriate directions.

Guide dogs are required access at public accommodations by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 36.302(c). Public accommodations are required to modify their policies, practices, and procedures to permit people who are blind or disabled to be accompanied by working dogs anywhere. There are some places that aren’t open to the general public, such as operating rooms and kitchen, that guide dogs aren’t required to have access to, for health and sanitation purposes. A good way that somebody taught me to remember it, is if I’m allowed to walk in there with my tennis shoes on or other regular shoes on, my guide is allowed to walk in there. For example, Makiko wouldn’t be able to walk into an operating room because it is a sterile environment and it is not open to the general public.

If the service dog gets out of control and is having relieving problems inside the establishment, growling, barking excessively, etc., the owner or management has the right to ask the dog/handler to leave the facility as it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. The handler is required to be permitted back into the establishment without the service dog on the premises if this situation occurs.

Hotels and other places that allow people to stay their for a fee are not allowed to charge a pet/animal deposit or surcharge for the guide dog, as they aren’t a pet after all. (This is when it helps to think of them as medical equipment, not an animal). However, if the guide dog causes damage to the hotel room or furniture, the hotel IS allowed to charge the handler for the cost of repair if it is their practice to charge non-disabled people if they damage the property as well.

Fair Housing Act (FHA):
Landlords are required to make exceptions to their “no pets policy” to allow a service dog handler to have their service dog live with them. This is called a “reasonable accommodation.” (Under the Fair Housing Act, they define service dogs under the “assistance animal” umbrella and emotional support animals (ESAs) are also under this umbrella). Pet restrictions and charges for animals do NOT apply to assistance animals – a landlord cannot charge a pet deposit for a guide dog. A landlord cannot deny a request for a reasonable accommodation based on a dog’s weight or breed, even if they don’t allow normal pets to be above a certain weight or to live on the premises if they are a certain breed. Landlords CAN require you to provide a letter from a doctor or therapist, depending on the type of service animal, documenting the need.

Public transportation companies CANNOT discriminate against you and deny you because of your service dog, even if they are using their own car because they are providing a service to the public. The only exception to this is if the person has severe allergies to dogs as this could potentially be covered under the ADA as well and in that case many times are required to have a note on file with their company documenting this and are required to secure another ride for the passenger with the guide dog/service dog.

Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) :
Guide dogs are permitted to accompany their handler in the cabin on flights. The dog is allowed to accompany their dog in any seat the handler chooses, except emergency exit rows and if the dog is going to stick out into the aisle and pose a safety hazard.

Makiko is very cute and lovable, as are most guide dogs. Depending on the day, Makiko may soak up the love or if she is particularly focused, she may not. However, like most dogs, if you greet them excitedly or make kissy noises, guide dogs may very well get distraction. Distraction can be deadly for a handler, especially if the blind handler isn’t aware their guide dog is distracted to be more aware or to correct it. If a guide dog is safely helping its handler cross the street and watch for traffic, or navigating a particularly environment, and the guide dog gets distracted it might not pull that blind handler out of the way of a smart car that is silent or might not pay attention to that curb and send the blind handler tripping over the curb into the street, landing on his/her face. It’s pretty dangerous. It’s also just an invasion of personal space. Guide dogs are an extension of their blind handler. Many call them “medical equipment,” which they technically are, just in dog form. Would you go up and put your hands all over someone’s glasses? No, of course not, that would be weird and likely harassment. I know guide dogs are living creatures and a lot more adorable than a pair of glasses but they are both pieces of medical equipment that allow a person to function. ABC News posted a great video today in honor of International Guide Dog Day and they quoted a statistic that read: “A survey found 89% of handlers’ dogs have been distracted by members of the public.” The message from the video was “Look but don’t touch.” (or make sounds/attract the guide dogs attention).

It IS okay to ask a handler to pet their dog. A lot of handlers, including myself, enjoy introducing their guide to you. Most handlers will just make sure that their guide is calm and under control, especially if they are in harness. This will help the dog not to become solicitous when it is working and in harness later.




Public Bathrooms

I am a blind chick with a small bladder. Dr. Pepper and Starbucks Frappucino’s also provide me wonderful caffeination to get through my days.. but both of these glorious drinks are NOT good on the bladder. So when I have to go, I HAVE TO GO. How does blindness tie into that? If we are independently navigating a public place or a crowded place, it often takes us a lot longer to get to the bathroom. So by the time we are there, we are often desperate.

Have you ever looked at the size of a public bathroom stall? They are TINY when you think about trying to cram yourself, any bags or other items you have with you, AND a guide dog in there. For some larger dogs, it’s impossible. So when you really really have to go and there’s not an accessible stall open because somebody without a disability is using it, it can be incredibly frustrating. Do you try and fit your dog in the stall? Do you leave your dog right outside your stall and risk others petting, possibly feeding, or messing with your dog? Do you wait for the accessible stall (what sometimes feels like forever) so that you can fit your dog and you into one stall? Lots of decisions to think about all because somebody else is in that stall that might not need it and you have to GO PEE! And let’s face it, when you’re desperate, that’s all you might be thinking about.

Let me stop there and share this link with you. Please read this before continuing: https://lifethelaurenway.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/lets-talk-about-public-bathrooms/

Prior to her writing this article, I had thought about this from time to time. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, yes, It is incredibly difficult to fit Makiko into a smaller stall and when I really have to use the restroom, it’s darn near impossible. I sometimes much rather just stay in one place and wait for the accessible stall as opposed to moving around and having Makiko move around in weird ways to fit in a small stall with some part of her body likely sticking out into one of the bordering stalls or out into the main restroom area. It is, also, by definition the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stall. This is why it is larger (to allow for people with different assistive and mobility devices to turn around and navigate), it sometimes has a different height toilet, has grab bars, etc. Have you ever noticed that most doors into accessible stalls open the opposite way? It is designed for people with disabilities. So when a person without a disability comes out of it, it has annoyed me from time to time (especially when I’m that desperate). This stall is not a changing room before you go to exercise. It is not a place to corral your children. When you use that stall when you can use any stall and disrupt the person with a disability’s ability to use that stall when they can ONLY use that stall, you are likely causing them to be very uncomfortable and taking away their right to equal access.

However, on the flip side.. 1) Somebody could potentially have an invisible disability and the ADA stall makes it easier for them and 2) I kind of understand if there is a long line of people waiting to use the restroom and the accessible stall is open, why wouldn’t you use it? I do get that.

In response to the young ladies’ blog post above, people have been pretty mean. They have mostly talked about how if they have a child it is easier to use that restroom. My response to that is, I get that it is EASIER for you, but that is the only option for many. Unfortunately, several bathroom designers have placed the changing table in the accessible stall (poor design) and at that point if the parent needed to change their child, they would have no choice. That is not their fault and I totally get that. That’s a necessity at that point but if you’re just looking to corral your kid, consider seeing if you could do that in a non-accessible stall, please. If your child is young and potty training, it might be a necessity for you to be with them and use that stall. I get that too. But please remember that these stalls were not made into a requirement by law many years ago for families. They were put into law for people with disabilities.

Again, I get it from both sides. I get the side that a lot of people with disabilities have held that it is their only option, the stall was designed for people with disabilities, and it is a medical necessity for many to use this restroom. However, I do get that if there is a long line of people and it is open, you might as well use it really fast and be done. I also get that some designers have poorly planned where they place the changing table and some can’t help but use that bathroom. I guess all I’m asking for is that individuals without disabilities use common sense. Before you go into that stall, please consider if there are others waiting around that appear to have disabilities or trouble moving around and might require that stall. If there are several stalls open, please consider using the non-accessible stall if you don’t really depend on it. It would make the world of difference to some if people who didn’t need that stall just made an effort not to use it. Some of us don’t have the opportunity to take using the stalls for granted. Some of us think about every time we have to go to the restroom, “Oh goodness.. will there be a stall available that we can use? That’s all I’m seeking – an effort to not use that stall if you don’t have to and an understanding about how it affects and bothers many people with disabilities when you do.


Collecting data on Uber incidents nationwide

Someone from National Federation for the Blind reached out to me based upon my stories about Uber discriminating against me. 

This morning I spoke with a paralegal for the lawyer on the case where NFB is suing Uber for discrimination against users with service dogs. At this point, the purpose is solely to collect information showing that ride sharing services (Uber, Lyft, etc) are discriminating all over the nation. Therefore, they asked that any service dog handlers that have experienced discrimination because of their service dog contact them so they can just collect the data. 


Please email that email above with information about the incidents you experienced.
Thank you.

Flat out DENIAL – by Uber

Uber logo

These Uber incidents are getting pretty old by now. Why do I continue to ride Uber some have asked? Because 1) it’s a great service that when the drivers are educated and courteous, provides me a very reliable, convenient, and affordable method of transportation and 2) NOT riding a service because they are discriminatory will not CHANGE anything.. it will just let them continue to be discriminatory- and if you know me, you know I don’t tolerate any of that mess.

Toward the end of last week, we had another incident. I requested an Uber but this time, something in my gut told me not to mention my service dog, just to mention that I was legally blind and request that the driver alert me upon arrival. Now, you have to understand that my vision is such that I can see when a car pulls up, but between my limited vision and my lack of car knowledge, I have a hard time identifying if I would be getting in the “right car,” so I just wait for the driver to alert me that they are there. Well, this driver took an abnormally long time to get to me, and it was over 100 degrees outside. HOT. The Uber app said “Your driver is arriving now,” so I started to look. Sure enough there was a black car (just like the picture on the App) that pulled up right in front of us. We (Makiko and I) started moving toward it, already in the parking lot at this point, when the car SPED off.

I was quite frustrated because in the back of my mind, I knew what was going on – he saw the service dog. So I texted him to find out what really happened, and he replied “No dogs, sorry I have kids, no hard feelings.” Um, excuse me, no hard feelings? YES HARD FEELINGS! You just sped off when we were ALMOST to your car, didn’t say a WORD to us, and it was against the LAW. So I told him that, he didn’t respond, so that’s when I told him I was reporting him to Uber and the Department of Justice, which of course I did and of course he didn’t respond to that either. I DO understand that he might want to protect his children from dog hair, but he at least should have told me that AND called Uber to fill them in on the situation.. instead of just speeding off and canceling the trip.. forcing me to request another Uber driver and wait outside in the heat even longer.

Uber usually calls me back within an hour or so of complaining, but it took over 9 hours and me posting something on their Facebook page (see below). I also filed a complaint with the Department of Justice. If I recall correctly, it takes like a year for them historically to get to the complaint after you file it, so they sure will be getting a lot of complaints from me around this time frame. It will be interesting to see how it gets resolved, both with my case and with the cases where National Federation for the Blind and other entities are suing Uber in federal courts for discrimination for this very situation. I just want those who discriminate to learn and be held responsible. That’s it.

Here is my post. Click the date to see the actual post on Facebook:


Uber, I think it’s about time for some disability training. I know you all say you have resources and materials…

Posted by Jessica N Naert on Friday, August 7, 2015

New ADA Technical Assistance Publication on Service Dogs

Recently, the Department of Justice published a new Technical Assistance publication on service dogs. Here is the link: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf

I really like the way the technical assistance publication opens – “Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life.” I COULD live without Makiko, but I wouldn’t be able to fully participate in my job especially, but also other parts of my life, without her, and I certainly wouldn’t have the independence, freedom, and confidence without her.

Some of this was covered in other ADA publications, but I’ll still bring some of the facts up here because they are important and also covered on this new technical assistance publication.

  • The ADA defines service animals as DOGS that are individually trained to mitigate someone’s disability. The task must be directly related to this person’s disability.
    • This is interesting for me to see because just recently a coworker sent out an article about service monkeys.. I was thinking they CAN’T really be covered under the ADA but until I had factual proof, I didn’t want to say anything.
  • Emotional support, companion, therapy, and comfort animals ARE NOT covered under the ADA. There is a distinction under the ADA between a psychiatric service animal and an emotional support animal. As the document reads, if the dog could sense that an anxiety attack or other psychiatric episode was about to occur and could perform certain actions, such as bringing medication or perform another action, to help avoid the episode or lessen its impact, then it could be considered a psychiatric service dog. But that would also of course mean it had great behavior and could behave properly in public, etc. If the mere presence of the animal just provides comfort, it is not covered under the ADA.
  • Service dogs CAN be owner-trained, they don’t have to come from an organization.
  • Places of business are still only allowed to ask the two questions of a service dog (or suspected fake service dog) team: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Service animals aren’t required to wear a harness, ID badge, or vest.
    • But of course, guide dogs need to wear their harness because they GENERALLY can’t perform their tasks without having the harness on. This applies for other service dogs too.
  • Service dogs are allowed in self-serve food lines.
  • Service dog handlers aren’t restricted to “pet friendly” hotel rooms. Hotels also can’t charge a cleaning fee unless the dog legitimately has caused damage.
  • A person can technically have more than one service animal. For example, someone might have a service animal to help with their diabetes, but also might have a guide dog if they have become blind due to their diabetes.
  • A service dog handler can keep their dog if they are hospitalized, if they can provide the care necessary or can arrange someone to come in (like a friend or family member) to provide the care. This document specifically stated it is NOT optimal to separate the service dog and handler.
  • A service dog should be allowed in an ambulance if the handler needs to be taken by ambulance; however, if there is no space and it would impact the medical care of the handler, the staff need to make alternate arrangements for the dog to be transported to the hospital.
    • I always kind of knew this, but thought it was interesting – it is the staff’s responsibility to make sure it has arrangements to the HOSPITAL, not a shelter, or other person’s home.
  • There is no required licensure/certification. The documents sold online do not convey any rights under the ADA and in fact the Department of Justice says it carries no weight.
  • Service dogs are required to comply with city/state vaccination/spay/neuter requirements.
  • Some places may have voluntary registries, such as colleges, to help service dog handlers have the proper accommodations and services, especially in an emergency situation.
  • Service animals can be any breed of dog and they can’t be discriminated against in any place because of their breed. Places that have breed restrictions must still allow a service animal of that breed in.
  • Service animals can be excluded if they fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, or are out of control (not housebroken, etc).
    • This fundamentally altered part confused me and I initially felt that it left businesses with a lot of room for their own interpretation, and possibly exploitation. However, this document gave an example of what it means to fundamentally alter the service or program. In most settings, it states, the presence of a service animal will NOT fundamentally alter anything. Examples were given of a boarding school that might have specific areas for those with allergies to dog dander or a zoo where the dogs would interfere with the well being of the animals.
  • Staff can require a service dog be removed from the premises if it is not in the handler’s control and continues not to be.
  • Generally, dogs must stay “four on the floor” (and not in shopping carts), but there are a few exceptions and it is generally up to the store in regards to this policy.
  • Seating, food, and drink at restaurants are for CUSTOMERS ONLY, not the service dogs.
  • Service animals don’t have to be allowed in public pools but they do have to be allowed on the pool deck.
    • Makiko and I have done this before!
  • The ADA does not apply to churches and religious organizations (you know, separation of church and state) BUT sometimes state laws apply. I am not aware of what Texas’ state laws are for these places, might have to check that out. AKA unless stated otherwise by state laws, religious organizations can refuse access to a service dog team.
    • I’ve said this before though, I wouldn’t want to be in a religious place that didn’t accept my service dog. But I identify with Christianity and I understand that there are some religions and cultures that have other views of dogs, not specifically service dogs.
  • The Fair Housing Act applies to places of residence and places of residence are required to permit a service dog. The technical document guided readers to review “HUD’s Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-funded Programs.”
  • The Air Carrier Access Act protects the rights of people with disabilities with air travel.

Service Animals in Shopping Carts

There are some animals that need to be close to their owner’s face to properly alert or complete the tasks they were trained to do to mitigate someone’s disability. Glucose alert dogs are a good example. As explained in one of my previous posts about these types of dogs from Dogs4Diabetics, the dog smells a certain scent from their handler’s mouth and then they alert. These dogs were labradors and other bigger dogs, so it wouldn’t work but I know that there are some smaller dogs that can perform this same task so it would make sense they would need to be closer to the person’s face. So, when shopping, it would kind of make sense that they could benefit from being in a shopping cart.

But to me, that’s gross, especially at a food store – where trace dog hairs, slobber, etc. could get onto the cart and then potentially get onto food. Also, a lot of fake service dog handlers put their dogs in carts and whatnot because their dog isn’t trained to properly walk along with them and ignore what they are supposed to ignore. This keeps them calmer.

Recently there was a court case, discussing this very topic: http://creeclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014-01-17-17-2-Butler-v-WinCo-Amicus-Brief.pdf

This ruled that generally, service dogs are required to keep “all four on the floor.” It is generally up to the business to decide whether they will allow it or not, though. I imagine most will say they don’t allow it, for very good reason. Now, maybe in a home improvement store, I wouldn’t mind this too much, but most other stores, I would have a problem with this. For example, Bed Bath and Beyond, I wouldn’t want a dog in a shopping cart that could then quickly be re-used by someone else who has a dog allergy.. just too much room for disaster, I think.

What are your thoughts?