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.

 

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

Kangaroo on a plane! As an ESA! 


Got your attention with that title, didn’t I?

This whole faking service dogs or emotional support animals on flights is really getting out of hand. Here is another article about it. 

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Emotional-Support-Animals-Growing-Problem-on-Flights-318728371.html

Cat, turtle, pig, kangaroo?! Now, cat makes sense.. I suppose turtle could too, but a pig or a kangaroo on a flight?!!

Sad that they don’t challenge the validity of passengers’ documentation or need due to law suite.. 

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?

ADA Violation (aka ONE OF THE SCARIEST EXPERIENCES EVER) – Uber


I was debating whether to share this story later this week or tonight, but I think I just have to get this off my chest. I had a very scary experience in an Uber vehicle today. 

Now, please realize I have taken the appropriate steps before posting this. I contacted Uber and filed a complaint with the DOJ.

I requested an Uber ride from my place of employment to a place of business- my veterinary center. First of all, the driver took an extended period of time to arrive. I texted the driver using the Uber app to inform him that I was visually impaired and had a service dog. I do this for several reasons. 1) To let them know I have limited vision and to alert me when they pull up. Even if I think it’s the right car, I won’t get in until they have made contact of some sort, because I HAVE gotten In the wrong car before. It was embarrassing more than anything but can also be a safety thing. 2) I like to give them a little warning that I have a service dog so they aren’t completely freaked out. Now some handlers say this is leaving me open to more trouble and discrimination but I have actually had a lot of luck with this method.

So, when I texted and didn’t hear back, I also called multiple times, with no response. I later texted to see if he was having trouble finding me, with no response. I eventually reached him via phone, and he told me he was “here,” but when going outside I learned that he really wasn’t. I helped him find me. We get in the car, and he says “hi,” and that was about it. Soon after we pull off, he starts getting very irate and raised his voice/started yelling about how he doesn’t allow pets in his vehicle. I calmly explained that my guide, who was marked, was a guide dog as I was visually impaired. He said “are you really blind?” to which I explained that I am legally blind but can see a little. He then started telling me that I was going to have to pay for his car to be cleaned. He started talking about how fleas are hard to get out of a car, but my dog doesn’t have fleas, nor was she itching. She was just sitting quietly on the floor of the backseat. My guide did not do any damage whatsoever. She didn’t even touch a seat. He said he didn’t care, there were NO dogs were allowed in his car. I explained state and federal law (Americans with disabilities act) and he said he didn’t care, he would never transport us again or any service dog. I was nice but firm. Later he said he was allergic but it sounded like he was just making it up. He kept harassing me and I told him I would report it to Uber and the DOJ and he said that it was his right to not allow me in the future and say that he never is allowing service animals. I am so frustrated because while doing this he took a very long route, got lost multiple times, etc and then questioned my disability and why I need a service dog, which is also illegal. I felt very threatened and scared and discriminated against. At one point the driver did say he was disabled himself, and he had a red handicap placard hanging on his mirror.

We got to the vet safe and sound. While Makiko was in the back getting her staples out, I wrote feedback to Uber. I them requested another Uber and had one of my favorite drivers, Andrea, come. I told her what happened and she was in just as much disbelief as me. She said Makiko hasn’t done as much as left a HAIR in her car. While I am glad she hasn’t found any tracing of Makiko, she is shedding pretty bad right now so I’m sure there were some hairs. 🙂

When I got home, I was still pretty shaken up so we relaxed for a bit and then Uber called. Due to their privacy policy, they can’t tell me what happens with the driver but did tell me that most times the driver gets suspended while the investigation is pending and if they are found to really be in violation, they are removed from the app. One of my friends coincidentally had this driver last week and he was pretty nutty with her too. 

I’ll try and upload the map later of our route You can see the pretty little circle he went in. Trying to figure out how much I want to pursue this from here. I’m getting tired of this mess. 

The fur is flying in pet-people clashes in the skies


A small dog with an "ESA" sign in a suitcase
Image found at: https://www.nsarco.com/flying-with-emotional-support.html
NOTE: This is not my image. I found it on Google. 🙂

If you’ve read my blog long enough, or know me personally, you know fake service dogs are one of my biggest pet peeves and a topic that really gets me fired up. Now, remember, I am not calling a “fake service dog” service dogs that don’t come from organizations, because there are plenty of really good owner-trained service dogs. I’m referring to pets that aren’t task trained to mitigate someone’s disability (if their owner/handler has one) or aren’t even partnered with someone with a disability.

I was scrolling along Facebook tonight, getting ready to post about how Makiko is doing (don’t worry that will come next) and then I see this title and think “hmm, I wonder what this is about!” So I open it up and my eyes immediately go to “emotional support animal” (in quotation marks, implying a fake.

Here’s the article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2015/07/31/flying-pets/30930717/

GASP! Excuse me – defecated in flight? Now, I get that any dog, like any human, can have stomach upset, but if you’re a true handler of a dog that assists you due to your disability, you usually have ways to help this PRIOR to boarding the flight – like getting appropriate medication or spending a good amount of time outside relieving.

“Airlines are enabling a bunch of selfish people who have no concern for the people around them,” says Kaczka, a teacher from South Plainfield, N.J.

I couldn’t have said it better. These people ARE selfish, or greedy, and they just don’t want to spend the money.. those who fake these animals, I mean. Now, I get that many airlines are likely afraid of the consequences of calling people out and there is only so much they can do if the person brings forged documentation, but I still think airlines should be a little more aggressive, have posted information about service dogs and emotional support animals, and have management that is aware and can help back them up.

I do get that some animals would have a lot of problems in the storage area of a jet, but then make alternate arrangements, don’t bring them. It’s not worth it. Now, the situation with Sam the cat mentioned in the story is sad. The owner did do the right thing by the cat.. and I feel that the airline should have been a little more tolerant.. clean up the mess and move on with it.. just like you would do if a kid pooped in his/her diaper. It’s a difficult balance though. And wow – that’s expensive for a pet transport!

The passenger who was quoted in teh story about it being a double standard that she wasn’t allowed to bring nuts on the plane, but someone was allowed to bring their medium sized non-service animal dog on the plane, was an interesting remark. I totally get that. I would be frustrated too.

When the article stated that airlines are being pushed one way by federal regulations and the other by unhappy passengers, I thought to myself “so what if they are unhappy if they are breaking the law?” Yeah, they are going to be unhappy if they can’t trick the airline into letting their beloved pet onboard and therefore not having to spend money.. but who really cares? That’s their deal. Federal regulations are in place to protect people with disabilities and their service dogs/their reasonable accommodations. It’s okay if the fakers/scammers aren’t happy if they get refused. But again, airlines and employees are just too scared of getting accused of discriminating or asking/saying things they aren’t allowed to. This is where proper training comes in, and empowerment from management who is aware and knowledgeable of their rights and the laws.

This was a very good article. And recent- posted today!