Discrimination 


Discrimination has been in the news a lot nowadays, especially with the Trump administrations view on Muslims from certain countries and the Mexican-American border. Recently, I experienced discrimination due to my use of a guide dog and hit me harder and in different ways than before, and I think a large part of that is because of all the discrimination happening in this world nowadays. 

I was in Houston for a work conference and was out with co-workers, some I knew, some I didn’t, for my best friend’s birthday dinner. We both work for the same amazing agency, as counselors, just in different offices. I walk in and am immediately thrown off a little bit because of the dim lighting which makes my residual vision go away. Immediately, as in I had only taken two steps inside, I am asked if Makiko is a service dog. I said yes. We went closer to the table. I sit down, am asked by somebody else. I say yes. I hadn’t even sat down long enough at the table to get Makiko fully settled before this second time being asked. Throughout the night I am asked about 4 times. However, what really really got me upset was I was sitting a few seats away from my best friend’s husband. He was the only male there at this point. He asked me if Makiko had papers. I thought he was just curious although I was pretty sure he should have known the answer. I said she did have an ID. He then said “this gentleman would like to see them.” I hadn’t even seen the man standing behind him at this point. I said “well he can’t..” and then the guy said to me with a very disgruntled tone “ok..” and then walked away. As we were leaving, the waitress was so excited to see Makiko and had NO idea that Makiko was under the table. That is a compliment and how it should be. 

However this “does she have papers?” thing really got to me. I later found out that the guy friend who the staff asked this question to tried to explain to him a few times that I am blind and she is my service dog before he really insisted on seeing papers. It bothers me that he was that insistent. It also bothers me that he asked the male at the table, not me. Finally, what really bothers me is im fairly sure, but not positive, that the gentleman who asked had already asked me earlier on if she was a SD. This was harassment. What has really resonated on my heart though is the “do you have papers” comment and how there have been a lot of members of the immigrant community and even permanent residents and citizens of different ethnicities have been asked this recently. Now I am being asked about my service dog, and not myself, but it still struck me pretty hard.. as if they didn’t think we had a right to be there. 

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, we are only allowed to be asked if she is a service dog and what tasks is she trained to perform? I found in Houston in general they asked this far more than any other place I have travelled. We went into one restaurant and my friend’s everybody was giving us the stink eye. I haven’t had this much trouble or stink in a long time. 

I have several very close friends who are undocumented. I have a lot of friends who are legit scared of losing their loved ones for a while do to being of a different ethnicity. 

I did write the business that did this and they were pretty receptive and apologetic and said they would be following up with the staff that night personally as well as sending out a message about discrimination to all employees. I appreciated that and their response was better than most people have responded with reported discrimination. 

There is just something really wrong about all of this, what happened to me in the restaurant but also what is happening in our country right now. It leaves you literally with a bad taste in your mouth, feeling depressed, and sick. 

When can we go back to loving our neighbor? Loving all.. 

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. 

mnunez@rbgg.com

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

Flat out DENIAL – by Uber


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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:

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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

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. 

Our first Thanksgiving..


This is one of the first major holidays without Dad.. we have had a few holidays but Thanksgiving and Christmas were the two big family holidays we all celebrated as a family. Last year on Thanksgiving, we were only a few weeks into learning that Dad had a pretty bad cancer diagnosis. He hadn’t had the major surgery that we learned his cancer was inoperable, though. He was really really tired and not feeling well but he still got all dressed up and went out to Thanksgiving with us. We wanted to go out to a seafood place for this Thanksgiving called Landry’s, but it was closed. So we ended up going to Dim Sum. I was a little nervous because last time we went to Maxim’s for Dim Sum, we had several people chasing us telling us dogs weren’t allowed. This time, however, we really had no issues. It was very delicious and relaxing. It was nice to hear that they obviously had learned too so hopefully others with disabilities who come in their with service dogs won’t have that problem. And, of course, this was our first Thanksgiving together as a team. I’m so thankful for her. 

De Rice & Our First Time Calling the Police


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Steven, my boyfriend, and I went to De Rice because we had been about a year ago and loved the food. I kind of had a feeling before we even walked into the restaurant that we might have a little difficulty because I knew their culture didn’t view dogs the same way we did. We walked in and the waiter and waitress approached us very fast and told us we were going to sit outside. Well, there weren’t any seats outside so I guess they were going to pull out a table but we didn’t want to sit outside, it was hot. So we talked to them further and we were very nice. We told them she was a guide dog for me because I couldn’t see very well. They still insisted we sit outside or leave. We insisted that we wanted to eat there. So they went in the back, after more debate, to call their owner. Took 10 minutes before they came out and said “sorry, but no you can’t,” we argued a little bit and then they went back in the back to call their owner again. I had showed them the cards with the laws on it and everything. Well after taking over 25 minutes or so with us just standing there, I said if I needed to I could call the police. They didn’t say anything so I did. The police operator was very supportive and understanding and an officer showed up really quickly. We went outside to talk to him and he went back inside to talk to them while we waited outside. He came back out a few minutes later and said that he thinks it’s a language thing and they didn’t understand, and that they were going to serve us now. Apparently the same time the police officer showed up the owner showed up as well. When we went inside he apologized to us profusely and told us he asked the staff if it was a “handicapped dog,” to which the staff replied “no.” Well afterward the waiter came up to us and apologized and we had a full conversation about the menu and food, in English. So I’m really not sure what was going on there. A friend thinks they just were probably not wanting or trying to understand. We ended up having great food and great service, but man that first 30 minutes or so sure got my blood boiling.

This was my first time calling the police. I really want to help educate the public and not have to resort to this but after trying all my strategies and they still don’t understand? That is when I will feel like it’s okay too. I am way more patient with people who deny us service than I am with people who have their dogs come attack or play with us while Makiko is working, but those are both situations that get me going.

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New Orleans (NAMRC)


First, I apologize to my readers for not posting in a while. I’ll describe why in an upcoming post. However, I am catching up on things now and want to tell you about our trip to New Orleans.

Makiko and I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans to present at the NAMRC (National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns) conference. I took my boyfriend along too because we were going to still be in New Orleans on his birthday. I presented at the conference with a classmate and she brought her husband, and then we had three professors from our university there too. It was great! We had been warned by a good friend though that New Orleans wasn’t very guide dog friendly, and unfortunately we experienced that on three separate occasions. Details to come!

This was the first time my boyfriend and I had ever flown together so of course he hadn’t ever flown with a guide dog. It went very well though. I asked sighted assistance to take us through security on the way there and then my boyfriend saw how it all worked for the trip home. The flights went great.

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The three of us had a great time while in New Orleans. We celebrated three great things: my boyfriend’s birthday, Makiko’s 2nd birthday, and another milestone in my relationship with my boyfriend. We ate a lot of great food, Makiko got new toys for birthday presents, we had great drinks, it was awesome. My boyfriend really loved the Jambalaya, I really loved the Oysters. I had Oysters on three separate occasions.

We went to the French Market and there was a little shop there that had a really fun guy who called himself “Mother Shucker,” and he would shuck the oysters right in front of you and then serve them to you with these two sauces, one of which had horseradish in it.

The hotel the conference was held at and that we stayed at for the first two nights was awesome. It was HUGE and beautiful. (Hilton Hotel Riverside) The hotel (Maison Dupuy) we stayed at the last night was nice, but we had a few issues with check-in. They had told me they would have our room ready by the time we got there but it wasn’t ready until many hours later so we left our baggage with Valet and walked around. They upgraded us for our trouble though, which was very nice, and it was a HUGE suite, with a huge living room, two bathrooms, a large bedroom, etc. Both hotels weren’t very close to a dog relieving area or really any patch of grass so that was a bit of a drag. We got enough exercise on the trip without the extra walk. 🙂 Both were good though about me having a service dog.

On Steven’s birthday, we decided to try Bourbon Street and let me just tell you it wasn’t very blind or guide dog friendly.. it was also our first experience of being discriminated against because of my guide dog. The place was called “Fritzel’s” and it was a bar/restaurant. There was a small doorway in which people were coming in and out of. The hostess, who was apparently also the manager, held us up at the door spending a LONG time looking at our ID’s and you could she was really thinking hard (of ways to turn us away). While we were held up in that doorway, Makiko was getting stepped on by people going out and she got hurt once and jumped and it was quite traumatic. So then the lady let us in, maybe an inch (?), and then started telling us about how her customers may have allergies to dogs or not like dogs, and then we thought she was going to lead us to a seat but instead led us to the patio and told us that it would be just as great out there. Yeah, right. So we get out to the patio and she just lets us loose, doesn’t even bother to seat us. We sit in a seat and then after about 15 minutes realize that nobody is coming but my boyfriend sees somebody about 20 feet away on her phone. So we move closer and then sit there for a little while when this woman comes up to us and says “Uh.. can I help you all with anything?” (with a very snarky, rude tone). I was chapped off so I just said, “No, this took too long for us to get served,” and then we walk out past the manager and she says nothing. I was planning on filing a complaint. I sent a picture of the place to my classmate who was presenting with me and she was also on Bourbon Street. She stopped by and talked to the manager and she gave her attitude too and called over the waitress to tell her that that didn’t really happen but luckily the waitress was truthful and said that it did take her awhile to get to us but she said it was because she was in the restroom, which wasn’t the truth. I also posted this on Facebook and another friend called and talked to them and they weren’t very helpful or supportive on that call either. Needless to say they didn’t get the point so I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice. It takes a while for them to get back to us after we file the complaint but I am anxiously awaiting what they have to say about that one.

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When we were transferring from one hotel to another, the hotel had flagged over a cab and my boyfriend was putting the luggage in the back of the taxi with the driver while I was waiting by the door. There were three lanes of taxi traffic and this driver was in the middle lane so it was a little crazy. Well, after my boyfriend showed him where we were going and put the luggage in the car, the driver came over and said, “You’re taking THAT dog with you?” I said, “Yes, she is my service dog.” He replied, “No, that dog isn’t going with you. You can leave it here.” Um, no. So we exchanged talk about how it was a service dog and it was the law, etc. He said “What if the dog pees in the car?” Steven and I both replied in-sync, “She won’t.” So he goes, “Well he can come in, but I’ll charge you extra.” I said, “No, you can’t charge us extra, that’s against the law.” He argued and finally I pulled out my phone and said “Would you like me to call the police? Because if that’s what I need to do, I will do it.” He eventually let us in and didn’t talk to us for awhile until Steven and I noticed on the back of his seat is a list of things we are entitled to as passengers and one of the top ones said “Be accompanied by a service animal.” So I asked him why he was giving us so much trouble to which he plainly denied giving us any trouble. I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice on this too.

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Our last incident I attribute to the lady just simply not knowing, not being ignorant or obnoxious. We were walking in the restaurant and the hostess told Steven to walk me outside and around to a side door of the restaurant so that we could go by the place where people tie their dogs up. No. So she had to go talk to her manager when we refused and then was super nice after she realized that was wrong. That was our last meal in New Orleans, Steven and I both got drinks, and guess what else we got? Jambalaya and oysters.. what a surprise! 🙂

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The conference and meeting so many super intelligent, passionate professionals and students was great. The food, the drinks, the scenery. It was all a wonderful experience. I just hope those places learn that they can’t deny or discriminate against individuals with service animals from now on.

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Here is a video I found tonight by the Norwegian Association of the Blind that conveys a cute message related to this: