We now bring you two stories about service animals. It remains one of the most vexing issues for their owners and the public. We hope these articles and the updated ADA regulations will shed additional light on the subject.
Confusion remains over service dogs, law
By Georgia East
May 17, 2011
THE ISSUE: Under federal law service animals can accompany their disabled owners
wherever they go, but some businesses deny them access.
It was supposed to be a birthday dinner. But it ended before it began when Judi Quinn, 64, was told she could not be seated indoors after showing up with her service dog at Scarfone’s Coal Fired Pizza in Coconut Creek, Florida. “I was so mad, but I didn’t lose it,” said Quinn, who has multiple sclerosis and gets around in a motorized scooter. She said she never before had a problem at the restaurant. Scarfone’s blamed the incident on a misunderstanding.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, protects the rights of disabled people, including their use of service dogs. Yet disabled residents across South Florida say some big chains and smaller businesses are still unfamiliar with its mandates. Wal-Mart was cited for violations in 2009 after several people with service dogs were denied entry. The retailer agreed to pay about $150,000 to those who filed grievances, to train its employees about service dogs and to launch a public-service campaign. Blockbuster settled a similar suit last July, as did the Golden Cab Corp. in West Palm Beach in 2008.
RISE IN COMPLAINTS
The U.S. Department of Justice does not break out figures on service dog complaints, said spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa. But local Offices of Equal Opportunity say they are seeing a spike in such complaints, especially from people who need an animal for emotional support, which is protected under local law.
“It’s rising,” said Pamela Guerrier, director of the Palm Beach County Office of Equal
Opportunity. “When it’s not a visual disability, but something like depression or posttraumatic stress disorder, some people don’t believe the person has a disability related to their request for the animal.” Ken Lyons, director of the nonprofit Service Dogs of Florida, said his organization receives three to five calls per week from dog owners who have been refused service and businesses that want to know the guidelines. “When a person encounters this situation, they usually call the police,” Lyons said.
In Florida, barring a disabled person and his or her service dog from a restaurant, hotel, airplane or other public place is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. But advocates say many are unaware of the law.
Frank Fiore, chief financial officer of Scarfone’s, said someone from Quinn’s party came into the restaurant and asked whether dogs were allowed, but did not specify service dogs. He said Quinn didn’t come in, something she denies. “If she came in, there would have never been a question,” Fiore said. “We absolutely allow service dogs. We would never deny access to anyone with a disability.”
Quinn said she told the restaurant manager that Cory, her golden retriever, is a service dog. Cory helps her to open doors and pick up things from the floor. She said she explained that Cory, who was wearing his service-dog vest, should be allowed inside. “The fellow just kept saying no dogs are allowed,” said Quinn.
Not all businesses are required to allow service dogs. Exceptions include operating rooms, kitchens and sterile environments.
There are about 20,000 service dogs nationwide and as many as 2,000 in Florida, Lyons said.
They assist with such tasks as retrieving medication, warning of impending seizures and getting a telephone to someone during an emergency. Under the law, a business owner is allowed to ask two questions about a service dog: “Is this a service dog for disabilities?” and “What tasks or assistance does the dog provide you with?” The dog’s owner does not have to prove it is a service animal.
DOG’S BEHAVIOR KEY
Advocates say a dog’s behavior is key to finding out if it has been properly trained.
Even under ADA guidelines, a misbehaving service dog can be ordered to leave if its behavior is dangerous to others. “If a service dog is barking during a movie, it can be ejected,” Lyons said. “If someone takes their service dog to a restaurant and he’s eating off everyone’s table, the restaurant owner can kick the service dog out.”
Jose Lopez, of Deerfield Beach, who is blind and has a guide dog, said disabled people
shouldn’t have to explain the purpose of their service animal. “It reminds you all the time that you’re different,” said Lopez. “It’s no fun having to explain yourself over and over again.”
This article can be found online at http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/16/2220027/confusion-remains-overservice.html#ixzz1Mts6GyMk
An explanation of the revised ADA regulations on service animals can be
found on our website at http://www.ada.gov/.
A softer message about service dogs, to share with businesses
I have a disability and use a service dog, and I want to be your customer. I believe that you want me to be your customer, and I want to share with you some information about the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I have the right to access your establishment just like any other customer, and my service dog is allowed to accompany me.
You have the right to ask me if my dog is a service dog and what tasks it performs for me.
You may not require me to produce documentation – I am not required to provide any
special identification for the dog, proof of training, or proof of vaccinations, and you may not ask me to do so.
You may not require me to talk about my disability – all I am required to tell you is that I have a disability – that’s all.
You may not charge me anything extra because of my dog. In the unlikely event that my dog damages something, I will pay for the damage.
You may not seat me away from others or in any way that isolates me or segregates me from others. You may not seat me near a bathroom, near the kitchen, or in any less desirable location than others simply because I have a service dog with me.
If my dog is out of control and I cannot bring it under control, you may ask me to take my dog outside.
If my dog poses a threat to others, and I cannot address the threat, you may ask me to take my dog outside.
Even if your business has a “no animals allowed” policy, and even if the state health code prohibits animals on the premises, you must allow me to be accompanied by my service dog.
Service dogs come in all breeds and sizes, and assist people with a wide range of
disabilities, not just people with vision disabilities. Feel free to ask me if I have a disability, and what tasks my dog performs for me. Please don’t ask me anything else.
I want to be your customer, and pay you for the services you provide. Please let me.
This suggested protocol above was brought to us by Access Now® member Marc Dubin, Esq. (See above for a more complete description of who Marc is and the amazing work he does!)
U.S. State Department Announces International Sports Exchange
for Athletes with Disabilities
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Recognizing the need for inclusiveness in the world of sports and people-to-people exchanges, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced today that it will bring 14 athletes from Kazakhstan to the United States to participate in an inaugural exchange for athletes with physical disabilities. During the 10-day exchange, these male and female sitting volleyball players will participate in clinics and games with their American counterparts in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, including with the U.S. Men and Women’s Sitting Volleyball teams and USA Volleyball.
Sitting volleyball is a Paralympic sport for both men and women. This is the first ever
sports visitor program focused solely on athletes with physical disabilities.
Sports diplomacy creates international exchange opportunities for athletes and their coaches.
Participating in the sports visitor program, athletes and coaches from 54 countries have traveled to the United States to interact with their American counterparts and engage on a host of issues, including: balancing academics and athletics; creating opportunities for athletes with disabilities; and empowering women and girls through sports. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Office leads the State Department’s international exchange efforts to bring the global community together through sports. Athletes and coaches from a range of sports are chosen to
conduct clinics, visit schools, and engage with youth overseas in a dialogue on the importance of an education, positive health practices, and respect for diversity.
The Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind
The Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind was started in 1991 by the Winnick Family
Foundation. Within that time frame, the center has helped nearly 400 blind and visually impaired people obtain guide dogs. The center is based at Beit Oved cooperative in central Israel. Gary Winnick said, “The wonderful animals trained by the Center profoundly improve the quality of life of blind people every day by providing them with mobility, independence and self confidence. We are proud to support that effort.”
The center was established with a Yellow Lab named Tilliein in January 1991. The centers first graduate was Haim Tsur, a concert violinist from Jerusalem who graduated in June 1991. Currently, there are 27,000 legally blind Israelis. However, there are only 300 active guide-dog partnerships.
According to Norman Leventhal, who is the president of the Center, “Before the founding of the Center at Beit Oved, visually impaired Israelis had to travel to England or America to obtain a qualified dog, but these foreign animals were principally trained in English and in foreign traffic customs. We now have a world-class facility that provides guide dogs born and raised here in Israel – animals trained to respond to commands in Hebrew and completely familiar with local Israeli streets and safety protocols. That is all made possible by the continued generosity of donors like the Winnick Family.”
It’s great that the Winnick Family Foundation started the Israel Guide Dog School. It’s also interesting that the guide dogs understand Hebrew and understand the traffic laws of Israel. It’s a testament to the training process that they use so that the dogs can properly work in their country. Hopefully, the center will continue its successes and be able to create more guide dog partnerships.
This story was brought to our attention by Access Now valued member David New, Chairperson of the Miami Beach Disability Access Commission and the very successful Ability Explosion 2010, which is now preparing to hold Ability Explosion 2011. (See its website at Ability Explosion.org.)
Access Now, Inc. ® continues to be deeply and proudly involved with this extraordinary event.