Monthly Archives: January 2018

Keep Your Peacock to Yourself, Please

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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.

http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2018/01/30/woman-denied-emotional-support-peacock-on-united-flight.html

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A Must-Read Book: “No Pity” by Joseph P. Shapiro

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While reporter Joseph P. Shapiro stood on a New York sidewalk in 1988, he saw a cab slow down to pick up a passenger. That same cab abruptly turned and sped away, however, when the driver saw that his potential customer was in a wheelchair. Continue reading A Must-Read Book: “No Pity” by Joseph P. Shapiro

Who Says Disability Devices Can’t Be Cool?

 

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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!

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/arts/design/cooper-hewitt-access-ability.html?ribbon-ad-idx=4&rref=arts/design&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Art%20%26%20Design&pgtype=article

 

 

Delta Airlines is Cracking Down on “Emotional Support” Animals

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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.

They are not, however, excluded from the Air Carrier Access Act, which is the law that governs disability issues on passenger airlines. https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/passengers-disabilities

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 !

http://abcnews.go.com/US/delta-air-lines-imposes-rules-tightening-leash-support/story?id=52469837

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We are worth Saving!

 

 

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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 unannounced 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 bureacratic 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 bureacratic 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.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and safe new year!

http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/disaster-safety-for-people-with-disabilities

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Book him, then Get him a Dog Biscuit!

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(Note: This is an edited version of an article published yesterday).

Those of us in Portland, Oregon will not soon forget hearing about a tragic bus ride a few years ago. A woman was riding with her service dog when a larger dog attacked and killed the animal. It was particularly gut-wrenching to hear that the attack was unprovoked and the larger dog was not a service animal. See below:

http://m.seattlepi.com/local/article/Dog-killed-on-Portland-bus-1289632.php

I am sure that this added to the growing, if often unexpressed,  resentment towards people who are allegedly playing the “disability” card: labeling their animals “service animals” and proceeding to take them to all manner of places where they normally would be forbidden (grocery stores, restaurants, malls and health clubs). It’s even  more convincing if they can adorn their pets with one of those fancy vests or collars, readily available at a low price on the Internet.

Not only does this perpetuate a negative view of people with disabilities, it is inaccurate for several reasons.  It’s true that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires most public establishments to allow people with disabilities access  to their facilities when they are accompanied by their service animals.  But if service animals become aggressive or otherwise engage in inappropriate behavior, their handlers can be told to remove them.

The regulations also state that only dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) can become service animals. In addition, service animals are not required to have any documentation and it is illegal to ask for such.

And service animals can do amazing things: They can retrieve and carry objects, they can open and close doors, they can push someone’s wheelchair and detect the onset of seizures, to name just a few.

Contrary to popular belief, service animals are trained to be non-aggressive, relatively non-social and to focus on their owner and virtually no one else. This makes them much safer to the public than animals without training.

Because of their incredible usefulness, service animals are in great demand – the waiting list is sometimes two years.4E465058-630D-4E5C-AC49-0D9D6F93492E

Below is a link with more information about service animals:

https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet

It’s likely that this would not be so confusing were it not for the growing popularity of another kind of animal – an emotional support animal (ESA). Unlike service dogs, these animals are generally not trained to perform any physical work – they instead provide emotional comfort and ease anxiety and loneliness for their owners.

ESA’s are not covered by the ADA, and therefore their owners are not protected under that law (although they are covered under other disability laws, adding to the confusion). Therefore, ESA owners do not have a right to bring their dogs into most public establishments or government facilities, unless it is otherwise allowed. But it’s not a stretch to assume that once a shop owner is told that an animal is a “service” or “emotional support” animal, the owner would much prefer to let the animal enter than to face potential legal action – especially since they may not understand the law they are accused of violating.

This has created confusion and even animosity towards the law and the people who are intended to benefit from it – people with disabilities. And make no mistake – we feel the backlash. That is why many disability rights groups are heartily supporting the efforts of 19 states in making it illegal to falsely represent that a dog is a service animal. See the link below for details:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/19-states-cracking-fake-service-dogs

Do you agree that there should be laws making it criminal to falsely represent that a dog is a service snimal?

What has been your experience with service snimals – real or invented?

Please leave a comment and tell us what you think!

Helen

 

Take us ALL Out to the Ball Game!

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I love going to baseball games and I attend as many as I can – even though my multiple sclerosis sometimes makes this difficult. In addition to concentrating on the game, I have to focus on not tripping and falling down those long and narrow cement steps (often with no railings). I also have to constantly keep an eye on people who might bump into me, because the odds are excellent that they will knock me down.

But because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), things are much easier for me and others with mobility impairments. There are now more accessible seats, elevators, ramps and curbcuts in sports arenas, theaters and other public venues.   The link below explains these requirements in more detail:

http://www.ada-pros.com/new-2014-ada-requirements-for-sports-facilities/

So it caught my attention to hear that the  Chicago Cubs were recently sued by a 20-year old man with muscular dystrophy, who is a wheelchair user. He is alleging that the accessible seats he used to rely on were demolished in the process of remodeling, and have not been replaced.

The Cubs organization has not yet responded to this lawsuit, and it is of course impossible to know at this point whether or not the law has been broken. But I have to believe that after having finally broken their long and painful “curse”  and winning the World Series a year ago, the Cubbies will make this right.

See

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-cubs-fan-sues-team-20180102-story.html