This photo, from the attached Fox News article, is exactly what it appears to be: a peacock in an airport.
A couple of days ago, a woman tried to board a United Airlines flight with the bird, claiming it was an emotional support animal. The airline denied her request.
I am a disability rights advocate, and I passionately support the right of people with disabilities to have and use their service animals. But this is NOT what the law intended! Not only does it create inconvenience and sometimes even danger to fellow passengers and staff, it puts people with genuine disabilities in a poor public light. And in this political climate, that’s the last thing we need.
Six years ago, my 90-year-old mother-in-law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and given just a few months to live. Now it’s 2018, and she’s going to Tai Chi and line dancing classes.
Now if she would only wear her hearing aides…!
I could not help but think of her when I read the attached piece in the New York Times. It highlights an exhibit in the Smithsonian Design Museum that features products that are designed for people with disabilities. These are familiar products: prosethics, canes, shoes, etc. But instead of the usual clunkiness of such devices, they are cool and stylish.
And why not? As the article points out, there’s no reason why disability devices can’t also be hip and fashionable. And check out those hearing aids!
In my last few flights, I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of canine passengers. While I admittedly find them quite entertaining, I have also seen them get riled up and become aggressive. When I’ve asked if they are “service animals,” the owners have always lowered their eyes and mumbled that they are “emotional support” animals.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is a difficult issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That law clearly allows people with disabilities to be accompanied by service animals at stores, restaurants, etc. In addition, people with service animals generally cannot be made to show any “papers” or other documentation backing up their claims that the animal assists them with disabilities. And as long as the animal does not become unruly or aggressive, he and his owner cannot be told to leave the premises.
Emotional support animals, however, generally do not help with specific tasks, but their mere presence is said to be a comfort and anxiety-reducer for their owners. This may be a very legitimate function for these animals, but emotional support animals are specifically excluded from the ADA.
This law makes airplanes potentially much more freewheeling than restaurants or department stores. As the article below indicates, this has led to service pigs, service possums and even service snakes being allowed to board without challenge.
So what could go wrong? Not surprisingly, some of these animals have become aggressive and caused injury. That is why Delta is launching a new policy, requiring much more stringent documentation for emotional support animals on its flights.
We will see how it goes, but Delta is to be applauded for trying to put some order into the chaos that sometimes reigns in these airborne menageries. Not only may it restore some order, but it should help ease some of the stigma suffered by people with genuine disabilities, who are often thought to be abusing the law.
And I believe that the author of this ABC news story just made a typo in the second paragraph when he wrote that Delta will start requiring documentation that the animals are “trained and aggressive.” Remember, Spellcheck doesn’t catch everything !
Thank god it was just a false alarm in Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. Imagine getting a text message that a missle had been launched in your direction and was going to land in a matter of minutes!
Even though we knew how the story ended, it was hard not to feel for all of those people who were panicking, running and trying to find shelter. And I could not help wondering what I would do if I were in that situation. Because of my multiple sclerosis, I can’t run and can’t really walk without assistance. Where would I go, and would I be in danger of being pushed aside and possibly trampled by a panicky crowd?
It reminded me of the lengthy and downright surreal battle I had with my former employer over how I and other people with disabilities would be able to exit our building in the event of a fire.
I worked on the tenth floor, and several times a year we would suddenly get an announcement on the intercom, saying:
ATTENTION, ATTENTION. THERE IS A FIRE EMERENCY IN THE BUILDING. PLEASE EXIT THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY, USING THE STAIRS. DO NOT USE THE ELEVATOR.
Thankfully, they were all either false alarms or unannoud
nced drills. But they caused me to review our safety policy, which said that people who could not navigate the stairs should just stay in the stairwell and wait for either the “all clear” signal or for fire personnel to come and rescue us.
I had a lot of questions about this, such as: How do we stay in contact with others from inside the stairwell? How do we know that we will be safe from fire while we are in there? Are the walkie-talkies checked regularly to make sure the batteries are still working?
When I started asking these questions, I was first told that I would get answers. But in typical beaur7ocratic fashion, the facts got muddled and the blame started shifting, and I still didn’t know what to do. Eventually, my questions were answered. But this was because I played an active role in finding the answers and rewriting the policy accordingly. And although my employer and I never resolved our communication problems, at least I felt safer.
Even without these kinds of beaurocratic battles, it is easy for those of us with disabilities to fall into a kind of mailaise about the futility of trying to prepare for potential disasters. This can stem from a belief that we are powerless to help ourselves, or that we are already such a burden to people that we don’t want to cause more trouble in the event of an emergency. And as we know, herein begins the slippery slope of starting to believe that we are “lesser” beings and our safety is not as high a priority as it is for others.
We need to work hard to keep from falling into that way of thinking. The Red Cross and other agencies have a lot of information about how people with disabilities can and should plan for emergencies, just like everyone else. Do we have adequate food and water on hand? Do we have telephone numbers at the ready? Do we know who to contact about getting transportation, should that be necessary?
Below is a link to some of this information, and there is a lot more available.